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The 12 Women in Science Who Are Changing the World Right Now



To recognise the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are celebrating the most prominent women scientists and their research. There are a significant number of women in science making a major impact in their respective fields, and although this number is increasing, they are still significantly underrepresented in STEM. 

Whilst there are countless online articles highlighting historically famous women scientists such as Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace and Jane C. Wright, we want to showcase some of the women who are changing the world today through their research.

So we decided to analyse paper abstracts that were displayed on Researcher throughout 2019 and in early 2020 by ranking them in order of unique engagements generated.

So, if an abstract was read, shared, bookmarked, or if a link was clicked, this would count as an engagement. We then ranked the paper abstracts numerically. For context, 2,492,629 paper abstracts were displayed to 1,449,736 scientists and academics globally during this period.

We've put snippets of the extracts below - along with links to the original papers - so you can read these great papers yourselves. We have also stated if the paper is Open Access. If a paper is not stated as Open Access, the link will take you to the publishers’ website and you may need to log in via your institution to access the full content. 



Coco Chu, Postdoctoral Associate - Beijing, China and the Weill Cornell Medicine Artis Lab.

The microbiota regulate neuronal function and fear extinction learning, Nature

‘In mammals, changes in the composition of the microbiota can influence many physiologic processes (including development, metabolism and immune cell function) and are associated with susceptibility to multiple diseases. Alterations in the microbiota can also modulate host behaviours—such as social activity, stress, and anxiety-related responses—that are linked to diverse neuropsychiatric disorders. However, the mechanisms by which the microbiota influence neuronal activity and host behaviour remain poorly defined. Here we show that manipulation of the microbiota in antibiotic-treated or germ-free adult mice results in significant deficits in fear extinction learning.’




Susan Steck, Associate Professor - University of South Carolina and Elizabeth Angela Murphy, Associate Professor - University of South Carolina

Dietary patterns and cancer risk, Nature Reviews Cancer

‘In this Review, we summarize the current state of the field, provide a critical appraisal of new developments and identify priority areas for future research. An underlying theme that emerges is that the effectiveness of different dietary pattern recommendations in reducing risk could depend on the type of cancer or on other risk factors such as family history, sex, age and other lifestyle factors or comorbidities as well as on metabolomic signatures or gut microbiota profiles.’




Franziska Brüning PhD Student - Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Sara Noya PhD Student - University of Zurich 

Sleep-wake cycles drive daily dynamics of synaptic phosphorylation, Science

‘Little is known about whether and how global phosphorylation signaling in synapses is shaped in a time-dependent manner. To comprehensively characterize phosphorylation rhythms in the synaptic compartment driven by circadian and sleep-wake–dependent cues, we biochemically isolated synaptoneurosomes from mouse forebrain and analyzed them with advanced mass spectrometry–based proteomics.’




Margaret Antonio (and equally contributing authors), Bioinformatics Graduate Student - Stanford University 

Ancient Rome: A genetic crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean, Science

‘Ancient Rome was the capital of an empire of ~70 million inhabitants, but little is known about the genetics of ancient Romans. Here we present 127 genomes from 29 archaeological sites in and around Rome, spanning the past 12,000 years. We observe two major prehistoric ancestry transitions: one with the introduction of farming and another prior to the Iron Age.’




Katrin Preller, Assistant Professor - Yale School of Medicane/ University of Zurich 

Effective connectivity changes in LSD-induced altered states of consciousness in humans, PNAS (Open Access)

‘Psychedelics exert unique effects on human consciousness. The thalamic filter model suggests that core effects of psychedelics may result from gating deficits, based on a disintegration of information processing within cortico–striato–thalamo-cortical (CSTC) feedback loops. To test this hypothesis, we characterized changes in directed (effective) connectivity between selected CTSC regions after acute administration of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and after pretreatment with Ketanserin (a selective serotonin 2A receptor antagonist) plus LSD in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study in 25 healthy participants.’




Mary Prendergast (and equally contributing authors), Professor - Saint Louis University, Madrid 

Ancient DNA reveals a multistep spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa, Science 

‘Cattle, sheep, and goats appeared in eastern Africa 5000 years ago, catalyzing the spread of herding throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Archaeologists have long debated the geographic origins of eastern Africa’s first herders, the extent to which people moved with livestock, and relationships among food-producing and foraging communities. In this work, we integrate ancient DNA with archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence to explore how pastoralism developed within this region, establishing the roots of one of Africa’s dominant economic strategies.’




María José Torres-Prioris, PhD student and Associated Professor - University of Malaga and Diana López-Barroso, Postdoc - University of Malaga

Repetitive verbal behaviors are not always harmful signs: Compensatory plasticity within the language network in aphasia, Brain and Language

‘Repetitive verbal behaviors such as conduite d’approche (CdA) and mitigated echolalia (ME) are well-known phenomena since early descriptions of aphasia. Nevertheless, there is no substantial fresh knowledge on their clinical features, neural correlates and treatment interventions. In the present study we take advantage of three index cases of chronic fluent aphasia showing CdA, ME or both symptoms to dissect their clinical and neural signatures.’




Maria Findeisen & Tamara Allen, The Garvan Institute of Medical Research

Treatment of type 2 diabetes with the designer cytokine IC7Fc, Nature

‘The gp130 receptor cytokines IL-6 and CNTF improve metabolic homeostasis but have limited therapeutic use for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Accordingly, we engineered the gp130 ligand IC7Fc, in which one gp130-binding site is removed from IL-6 and replaced with the LIF-receptor-binding site from CNTF, fused with the Fc domain of immunoglobulin G, creating a cytokine with CNTF-like, but IL-6-receptor-dependent, signalling.’





Chu, C., Murdock, M.H., Jing, D. et al. The microbiota regulate neuronal function and fear extinction learning. Nature 574 (2019). doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1644-y


Steck, S.E., Murphy, E.A. Dietary patterns and cancer risk. Nature Reviews Cancer 20 (2020). doi.org/10.1038/s41568-019-0227-4


Brüning, F.,  Noya, S.B., et al. Sleep-wake cycles drive daily dynamics of synaptic phosphorylation. Science 366 (2019). doi.org/10.1126/science.aav3617


Antonio, L.M., Ancient Rome: A genetic crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean. Science 366 (2019). doi.org/10.1126/science.aay6826


Preller, K., Effective connectivity changes in LSD-induced altered states of consciousness in humans. PNAS116 (2019). doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1815129116


Prendergast, M, E., Ancient DNA reveals a multistep spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa. Science 365, (2019). doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw6275


Torres-Prioris, M, J., and López-Barroso, D., Repetitive verbal behaviors are not always harmful signs: Compensatory plasticity within the language network in aphasia. Brain and Language 190 (2019). doi.org/10.1016/j.bandl.2018.12.004


Findeisen, M., Allen, T.L., Henstridge, D.C. et al. Treatment of type 2 diabetes with the designer cytokine IC7Fc. Nature 574 (2019). doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1601-9

Tags: news, academic publishing, authors