Women’s History Month: Honoring Achievements in Science

By Maggie Sauerhage

Ecologist Rachel Carson helped shape how people see the natural world.

An ecologist who changed how an entire country looks at the natural world. The first woman to win a Nobel prize and the only one to win the prize in two separate fields. A computer scientist whose research helped launch rockets into space. A pioneer who realized the dangers of air pollution during the Industrial Revolution. A champion in protecting endangered species. And the first African-American woman to receive a degree in bacteriology.

Who are they? Rachel Carson. Marie Curie. Annie Easley. Mary Walton. Jane Goodall. Ruth Ella Moore.

These are just a few of many inspiring women who have impacted all of us with their innovations in science, engineering, conservation, medicine, and human health protection. They have inspired generations of scientists, engineers, trailblazers, women, and men to find a place where they can make their own impact, no matter how small, in comparison to these great achievements.

March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination.

In honor of women, both past and present, who have changed all of our lives for the better through their work protecting human health and the environment, this month we are profiling EPA women scientists and engineers who are striving to make the planet a safer, cleaner, and more sustainable place to live. They share their research, how they discovered their passion for science or engineering, and give advice for anyone who is interested in pursuing their dreams.

We’ll add more profiles throughout the month, so please check back as the next four weeks roll on and maybe you, too, will find a passion for environmental and human health research!

About the Author: Maggie Sauerhage is part of the communications team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Women in Science: Innovative Girl Power Impacts U.S. Workforce – You Can Too!

By Barbara Bennett

For Women’s History Month, I’d like to celebrate the importance of women in the work force.  In 2009, women accounted for 51 percent of all people employed in management, professional, and related occupations.  In 2007, there were 7.8 million women-owned businesses with receipts totaling $1.2 trillion. Over 140,000 of those businesses had revenues of $1 million or more and over 7,600 had 100 or more employees.  Talk about Girl Power!

We still have progress to make.  Only 3 percent of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs and women make up only 16 percent of the current 112th U.S. Congress.  Yet I think it’s important for us to remember that our career is as much a journey as it is a destination.

During my years in private industry, I didn’t anticipate a future career at EPA.  I realize, however, that the intersection of environmental research, green infrastructure and private markets for technological innovation are all initiatives that draw strength from both private and public sectors; neither one should be doing it alone when leveraging each other’s strengths works to the benefit of all. I am proud to be here as EPA’s Chief Financial Officer and I have found many opportunities speak to private industry about “green” investment.

No matter what career path you have chosen or are considering, I encourage you to bridge the gaps, connect the dots, and reach out to your peers in old or new career paths in search of new knowledge, or existing knowledge that can be applied in new ways.  Go ahead, take a chance, try a new idea….women scientists, and women in all fields, are in such a great position today to pursue new innovations for the benefit of society and the economy.

About the author: Barbara Bennett is the Chief Financial Officer for EPA. Prior to joining the Agency, she served as Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Discovery Communications, Inc.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Tomorrow’s Women in Science

By Lina Younes

This past weekend I took my youngest daughter to the Girl Scout Day at the National Air and Space Museum. Girl Scout troops from Virginia and neighboring states went to the Steven F. Uvar-Hazy Center to participate in the day’s events in celebration of Women’s History Month.

There were a variety of hands-on science and art activities among the museum’s exhibits. Some focused on physics, aerodynamics, astronomy, and basic computer programming among others science disciplines. We saw a demonstration on the effects of the lack of pressure in space using a marshmallow. It was interesting. The girls seemed fascinated by the experiment. We even had the opportunity to fly a plane! Well, not exactly. We flew and attempted to land a plane using a flight simulator. We were not that successful in the landing, though. Wish the line had not been so long so that we could have tried multiple times to get it right. It was fun!

While at the museum, we also browsed the collection dedicated to space exploration. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is one of the major objects on display. I looked in awe at the exhibits and space artifacts showcasing our role in space exploration. I was slightly saddened by the fact that many of the young girls there really couldn’t appreciate all the technological advancements resulting from the Apollo and Shuttle programs. They will only read about it in history books or view old video footage. I still remember watching the first lunar landing.  Don’t think today’s youth can grasp the magnitude of those achievements by just reading about it. It’s just not the same.

While we were at the museum, I overheard two of the older girl scouts volunteers talking about their college choices. One had just received several college acceptance letters to pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Who knows, maybe among those young girls attending the Women’s History Month events there will be a future astronaut like Sally Ride.  How about a future environmentalist like Rachel Carlson?  Looking forward to the future. As always, would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Science Wednesday: A Family’s Support Goes Far for a Passionate Woman Scientist

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Sarah Blau

As part of Women’s History Month, I’ve been talking to EPA women scientists about their work. Recently, I spoke with Mary Kentula, a wetland ecologist from Corvallis, Oregon.

First, I curiously asked what she wanted to be when she was young.

“Well, I wanted to either be a hair dresser, work in a clothing department store, or be a secretary,” Kentula recalled, laughing.

To my astonishment, she explained that she grew up as a coal miner’s daughter in a small town in Pennsylvania. Most women in this town were stay-at-home mothers. Those who worked were hairdressers, store clerks, or secretaries.

Kentula’s interest in science originally came from her family. Her mother and maternal grandfather had a passion for the natural world, and Kentula shared this passion from an early age. In fact, when Kentula started biology in college, she realized she was already familiar with the topics because whenever something in nature had sparked her interest, she would ask her grandfather or look it up in his books.

When I switched the subject from her childhood to her current work at EPA, I could tell right away that Kentula is passionate about her work. While her job requires a fair amount of administrative tasks, Kentula loves hands-on science and often ventures to the field to experience first-hand what her fellow researchers are doing. She loves the cooperative efforts that EPA encourages and her ability to bring together multi-disciplinary teams with a variety of people.

With pride, Kentula explained how her wetlands research has helped inform national policy. Also, in 2007 she received an award from the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Now, as EPA prepares for a massive wetlands survey to be completed in 2011, Kentula can see that there is growing expertise across the nation regarding wetlands monitoring and assessment. She feels that her research has helped to encourage this movement.

Kentula continues to gain support from her family. Often when she works, she thinks to herself, “What would my parents think about this? Would they think it’s important?” She often uses her parents as a yardstick to measure the importance of her research and to bring her encouragement in her daily work.

It is clear from the tone of her voice and the excitement I hear when she speaks of wetlands research that Kentula has grown beyond her early notions of what careers were open to her and is now doing what she loves.

About the author: Writer Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with EPA’s science communication team.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Women In Science: Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

March 1 is the first day of Women’s History Month, and EPA is celebrating by sharing the stories and perspectives of many talented women within our ranks. Over the next 30 days, this page will feature blogs by women scientists, engineers, and leaders who play an important role in helping EPA protect the health of the American people.

There is no doubt that environmental protection would not be where it is today without the extraordinary, groundbreaking work of amazing women. In the 1930s, a woman named Rosalie Edge showed people the importance of preservation and environmental protection. Edge was a pioneer who made it possible for others like Sylvia Earle, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Jane Goodall to emerge as leading advocates for protecting health and the environment. Rachel Carson – a scientist – authored the book Silent Spring that changed environmentalism forever. It is no coincidence that her book was published in the early 1960s, and by 1970 we had a federal Environmental Protection Agency.

photo of EPA Administrator Jackson touring EPA's Cincinnati lab.

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at EPA's environmental research center in Cincinnati.

These women were an inspiration to today’s generation of women scientists – including myself. I majored in chemical engineering at Tulane University in my hometown of New Orleans, and received a master’s degree in Engineering at Princeton University before joining EPA as a staff level in 1987. It was a time when very few women were studying and working in scientific and engineering fields. When I graduated from Princeton, I was one of only two women in my class. I felt a call to service and to issues of health, and wanted to use my technical degree to make a difference in the world around me. I originally wanted to become a doctor to help people when they fell sick. While studying chemical engineering, I realized that I could use my scientific training to clean up or prevent pollution in our communities, helping people by ensuring they didn’t get sick in the first place.

Over time I witnessed the changes that took place and the doors that opened – not just to me but to all women. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, around 154,000 women were pursuing masters degrees in science and engineering when I was in school. By 2003, that number jumped to around 270,000. Fifty years ago, women earned less than 10 percent of the science and engineering doctorates awarded in the United States. By 2006, that number climbed to 40 percent.

Scientific and technical advances are the foundations of our progress and prosperity. As the head of the government agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment, I’ve made clear that every decision we make on environmental issues must be guided by the best science possible.

The extraordinary women who work as researchers, technical experts, engineers, leaders and scientists at EPA give us the information we need to build the best health and environmental protections for the American people. I am proud to call them my colleagues, and I look forward to reading their contributions as we mark Women’s History Month with our series on women scientists at EPA.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.