Media Tip Sheet: Empowering Women & Girls in STEM

January 31, 2023

Over the last decade, the U.S. workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has grown more diverse, with more women and underrepresented communities working in STEM jobs, but progress still remains. The National Science Foundation released its Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities, which comes out every two years and is considered the most comprehensive federal data source on this topic. The report found among people between the ages of 18 to 74 years, women made up half (51%) of the total U.S. population and about a third (35%) of people employed in STEM occupations in 2021.

The findings come ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, recognized by the United Nations on February 11th, to advance gender equity and empower women and girls in STEM disciplines.

The following GW faculty members are available to offer their insights, thoughts and experiences related to the recruitment, retention and workforce opportunities for women and girls in STEM fields, from engineering and computer science to chemistry and medicine. To schedule an interview with an expert, please contact GW Media Relations Specialist Cate Douglass at [email protected].

Pamela Norris

Vice Provost for Research

Dr. Norris is GW’s Vice Provost for Research and previously served as the Executive Dean, the Executive Associate Dean of Research, and the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is recognized globally as a leading expert in nanoscale heat transfer, especially interfacial thermal transport with a focus on thermal management across a range of length scales.

Saniya Leblanc

Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Director of GW’s Energy Innovation Research Initiative

Dr. Leblanc’s research lies at the intersection of materials science, energy conversion, and thermal transport. Critical goals of this research include the development and demonstration of improved energy conversion technologies involving advanced materials and nanomanufacuturing processes, and current research projects include development of spray coating and printing processes for solution-synthesized nanostructures, thermal and electrical characterization of nanomaterials, and cost-performance analyses of energy technologies such as thermoelectric power generators for waste-heat recovery.

Cynthia S. Dowd

Professor of Chemistry

Dowd leads a research program, the Dowd Lab, which uses organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry to understand important biological questions. She is primarily interested in specific enzymes essential to bacterial and viral metabolism. Dowd is currently engaged in several interdisciplinary projects related to antibiotic drug discovery and structure-based design.

Gina Adam

Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering 

Adam's research interests are focused on emerging nanoelectronic and nanoelectromechanical devices and their integration in beyond von Neumann systems like computation-in-memory and neuromorphic platforms. Adam teaches hands-on courses in GW’s Nanofabrication and Imaging Center, where students learn the process of CHIP building. Adam and her students are also innovating computer chips as part of a new research agreement between Google, the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), and a semiconductor manufacturer. GW is one of five academic institutions working with NIST to contribute chip designs in an effort to build a new domestic supply of chips that will advance U.S. semiconductor and nanotechnology industries. 

Megan Leftwich

Associate Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Leftwich's Biologically Inspired Energy Laboratory investigates natural fluid dynamics phenomena and applies their findings to engineering problems. Her current projects include the wake dynamics of vertical axis wind turbines is standard and complex configurations, the hydrodynamics of pinniped swimming (in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoo), and the fluid dynamics of human birth.

Katherine Chiappinelli

Assistant Professor, Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine

Chiappinelli’s research focuses on how epigenetic therapies can be used against cancers, specifically in the context of arming the host immune system to fight cancer cells. She leads the Chiappinelli Laboratory, which focuses on the epigenetic regulation of immune signaling in cancer. Epigenetic therapy is particularly appealing as it provides a way to alter gene expression without changing the DNA itself. Chiappinelli and her research group study the epigenetic changes in cancer and how epigenetic drugs can reverse these, specifically focusing on noncoding regions of the genome and the tumor cell immune response. Chiappinelli is also passionate about undergraduate science education and community science outreach, with extensive experience working with high school students in urban environments

Rachelle Heller

Research Professor, Computer Science

Heller's research interest is in the area of computers in educational settings and the impact of interactive multimedia on learning in these environments. Expanding on her concerns for learning environments are her long-standing efforts to bring and retain women to areas in Science, Engineering, Math and Technology (STEM). Of particular interest is how students learn to use educational software, including the development of courseware for new application areas, the integration of the computer into existing educational settings and public spaces and in-service and pre-service teacher training. Her efforts in women’s leadership include her research grants and her role as the director of the Elizabeth Somers Women's Leadership Program.