How to Thrive as a Woman in Neuroscience

Event Description

Four diverse female neuroscientists from a variety of backgrounds, institutions, and career stages share how women can succeed in their careers and tell the stories behind how they’ve built their own.

You’ll hear strategies for dealing with major obstacles, including lack of encouragement, stereotypes about scientists, discomfort with competitive environments, marginalization within organizations, implicit and explicit bias, and childcare.

Additionally, they recount their scientific training, detail their research interests, and note some of the discoveries that have come out of their labs. They also reflect on how leadership and mentoring have helped them refine their career goals and support others. Importantly, they share some of their interests outside of the lab and how they find work-life balance, including how they pursue dynamic careers and find time to devote to their families.

Listen to their stories above and read these excerpts for a look into their lives and how they support other female scientists.

Margaret McCarthy

What she studies: the cellular mechanisms that establish sex differences in the brain.

How she advanced in academia: “A lot of people helped me, and now I'm in the position to help others. I started as an assistant professor and then became an associate professor, graduate program director, assistant dean, and associate dean. Now I'm chair. One of my real missions as chair is to help other women climb that ladder.”

Wendy Suzuki

What she studies: how physical activity changes the brain to improve mood, long-term memory, attention, and creativity.

How she applied her research skills to become an entrepreneur: “I switched from the study of neurophysiology of memory to studying the transformative effects of exercise. Now I’m establishing a startup company to do behavioral analysis on the effects of exercise across different age groups. The goal is not to leave science but to take advantage of opportunities to enrich my science.”

Jennifer Swann

What she studies: the role of steroids in the expression of sex differences in the brain.

How mentoring has impacted her career: “I've mentored people from all stages of their careers, from administration to high school students. I've really enjoyed it because I’ve learned something from every mentee I've ever had.”

Miri VanHoven

What she studies: nervous system development in the model C. elegans.

How she supports the next generation: “Every day, I can make a big difference for my students, especially when you think about education as a real force in promoting equality. I've been involved in the summer research program, primarily for underrepresented students, at San Jose State University. In the last couple of years, I’ve also gotten involved with helping women gain computer science skills. Biology majors can almost double their chances of getting a job after graduation by getting programming and advanced data analysis skills. We've even developed a minor and an MS in bioinformatics.”

*This event was moderated by Melissa Harrington, associate vice-president for research at Delaware State University.  



Margaret McCarthy
Margaret M. McCarthy, PhD
Margaret McCarthy is professor and chair of the department of pharmacology and a member of the program in neuroscience at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research program focuses on the influence of steroid hormones on the developing brain. She is a member-at-large for neuroscience and a fellow of AAAS, a past president of the Organization for the Study of Sex Differences, and a member of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, the Endocrine Society, and the Society for Neuroscience.
Wendy Suzuki
Wendy Suzuki, PhD
Wendy Suzuki is a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, where she studies the effects of physical exercise on brain function. She is an award-winning scientist and teacher, sought-after lecturer, and author of the popular book Healthy Brain, Happy Life.
Jennifer Swann
Jennifer Swann, PhD
Jennifer Swann is director for student success in Lehigh University’s College of Arts and Sciences. During her more than 30 years as a principle investigator, she has worked with more than 100 undergraduate, graduate, and faculty researchers. She has served on professional development committees for SfN and the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology and advisory boards for the Capstone Institute at Howard University, the neuroscience program at Delaware State, the Ascend Program at Morgan State, and the Penn State Eberly School of Science. Additionally, she is one of the tri-chairs for the Council for Equity and Community at Lehigh University. Her scientific work defined multiple circadian oscillators, identified the sex-specific effects of gonadal hormones, and uncovered a novel role for growth factors in the expression of sexual behavior.
Miri VanHoven
Miri VanHoven, PhD
Miri VanHoven is an associate professor at San Jose State University. Her main research interests lie in identifying the genes required for neural circuit formation, function, and plasticity. She received her undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Pomona College and her PhD in genetics from the University of California, San Francisco with Cori Bargmann. She completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford University with Kang Shen.

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