Harvard Women Scientists Today

Today there are many outstanding women scientists here are Harvard. The women below are featured in the exhibit in the Northwest Building lobby; that part of the exhibit will rotate regularly. The research work highlighted here represents only part of what they do; they are all active in national and international organizations and have received many honors. Perhaps even more importantly, they are all devoted to undergraduate and graduate teaching. 

  • Catherine DulacCatherine Dulac studies the molecular biology of pheromones and their detection, primarily in mammals. Her group is currently exploring the molecular and neuronal basis of social behaviors in mice. She received her Ph.D. from the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris where she studied neural crest development with Nicole le Douarin.  In 1992, she began her postdoctoral research with Richard Axel at Columbia University.  There, she discovered a novel class of receptors underlying pheromone detection.  In 1996, she established her laboratory at Harvard University.  Soon after, she uncovered a second class of pheromone detection receptors and characterized the signaling pathways required for their activity.  By manipulating this signaling pathway genetically, she and her lab have shown that this brain circuit is required for gender identification and sex-specific behaviors such as parenting, aggression, and sexual behavior.  She is the Higgins Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.  She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the French Academy of Sciences, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.  Among her many awards are the Richard Lounsberry Award, The Pradel Research Award, and the Scolnick Prize.
  • Hopi HoekstraHopi Hoekstra is an evolutionary biologist with a keen interest in dissecting the genetic basis of adaptation – from morphology to behavior. Her lab uses natural populations of rodents - along with a variety of tools and techniques borrowed from classic genetics, modern genomics, neurobiology, and cell and developmental biology - to answer a key question in evolutionary biology: how do animals adapt to their local environment? The Hoekstra Lab studies the genetic mechanisms underlying variation in several traits including coat color and pattern, skeletal morphology, nesting behavior, burrowing behavior, and sensory processing. Hopi received her PhD in Zoology from the University of Washington and studied the genetic basis of adaptive melanism in pocket mice for her postdoc at the University of Arizona.  She is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University. She is also the Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Comparative Zoology and a Harvard College Professor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. In 2016 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and in 2017 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Xaiowei ZhuangXiaowei Zhuang develops advanced imaging techniques, in particular single-molecule and super-resolution methods, to study biological and biomedical problems. She is the David B. Arnold Professor of Science and the director of the Center for Advanced Imaging at Harvard University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She invented stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM), which breaks the diffraction limit and enables fluorescence imaging of biological samples with nanometer-scale resolution. See a gallery of her STORM images here. More recently, she invented multiplexed error-robust fluorescence in situ hybridization (MERFISH), which enables imaging of RNAs at the transcriptome scale in individual cells in complex tissues. She also developed other single-molecule imaging methods to study biomolecules and molecular assemblies in vitro and in live cells. She applies these methods to investigate a variety of biological problems, including the molecular structures inside cells, the three-dimensional organization of chromatin and chromosomes in the cell nucleus, and the organization of distinct types of cells in tissues.

There are also many female graduate students and postdocs, and a few of them will be highlighted in the exhibit. (There is also an active organization of women grad students; see below.)

The two recent female Ph.D. graduate students included in the exhibit are:

  • Allison Shultz with a bird (kestrel?)Allison Shultz. A postdoctoral researcher, she combines field, lab, museum and computational techniques to answer questions about avian evolution at a variety of temporal and spatial scales. Her current research focuses on understanding how diseases have shaped bird genomes, or their full complement of DNA. In order to comprehensively address this question, she is looking at long evolutionary time scales - across the bird tree of life, across short time scales - within specific species. Of particular interest is the House Finch - she is examining the genomes from samples collected before and after an epidemic caused by a new disease. With these data she seeks to understand the impacts of this disease on genetic diversity and identify how they evolved resistance. In addition to her comparative and population genomic work, Allison studies how an important avian trait evolves - plumage coloration in a family of birds called the tanagers, and hopes to one day understand the genetic basis for these plumage color changes. To learn more about her and her research, you can explore her website: www.allisonshultz.com
  • Maude BaldwinMaude Baldwin received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 2015 and now runs a research group of her own at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany. She studies the evolution of sensory systems, and her dissertation was on the evolution of sweet taste perception in hummingbirds. 

(Many thanks to Anita Autry, Nicole Bedford and Monica Shishir Thanawala for contributing to this page and to the exhibit!)