Ten Inspiring Quotes from Women in STEM

March 5, 2018

by Nicole LaChance, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

March is Women’s History Month and, to celebrate, let’s look at wise words from ten women who have made great gains in STEM fields throughout history.

Maryam Mirzakhani, Groundbreaking Mathematician

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.” [1]

Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician who, in 2014, became the first woman and first Iranian to win the prestigious Fields Medal, often considered the Nobel Prize of mathematics. She was a professor at Stanford University until her death from breast cancer in 2017.

Sally Ride, Physicist and NASA Pioneer

“I would like to be remembered as someone who was not afraid to do what she wanted to do, and as someone who took risks along the way in order to achieve her goals.” [2]

Ride was a capsule communicator for NASA before becoming the first American woman and youngest person to date in space. After her historic flight, Ride worked at NASA headquarters, as a professor, directed the California Space Institute and co-founded the nonprofit Sally Ride Science, which creates science programs for upper elementary and middle school students.

Marie Curie, Radioactivity Researcher and Nobel Prize Record-Setter

“We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” [3]

The first person and only woman to win two Nobel Prizes, Curie is also the only person to date to earn the award in two different sciences. One of her many achievements was the development of the theory of radioactivity.

Mae Jemison, Astronaut, Doctor and Much More

“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” [4]

After earning her chemical engineering degree from Stanford University and her medical degree from Cornell Medical College, Jemison joined the Peace Corps and served as a doctor in Sierra Leone. Upon her return, she applied to the space program, eventually becoming the first African-American woman in space. She now works in the private sector, holds nine honorary degrees and remains a dedicated dancer.

Antonia Novello, Former Surgeon General

“I believe that fortitude is key. More than anything, be consistent. Go at it. Go at it. Go at it. When you succeed, don’t forget the responsibility of making someone else succeed with you.”

Novello was the first woman and first person of Hispanic decent to serve as Surgeon General of the United States. She studied at the University of Puerto Rico and held residencies at the University of Michigan and Georgetown University School of Medicine, focusing on pediatrics. During her tenure as Surgeon General, Novello focused on the health of women, children and minorities, as well as those with AIDS.

Dr. Francis Allen, Computer Scientist and Programming Wiz

“You need to hire and develop great people. You need to set the vision and trust them to do the right thing. You need to let go of control. That’s wonderful for all involved because you’re empowering and trusting your people to do what’s right for the brand.” [5]

Allen worked at IBM for 45 years, work that included code optimization, parallelization and pioneering work in optimizing compliers. She was the first woman to receive the notable A.M. Turing Award, the Nobel Prize equivalent for computer science, for her work.

Chien-Shiung Wu, First Lady of Physics

“There is only one thing worse than coming home from the lab to a sink full of dirty dishes, and that is not going to the lab at all!” [6]

Often called the First Lady of Physics, Wu left her native China in 1936 to study at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. She is most notable for conducting the Wu experiment, which contradicted the hypothetical law of conservation of parity. Although she was not recognized for the Noble Prize along with her colleagues, she later when on to earn the inaugural Wolf Prize in Physics.

Helen Octavia Dickens, Surgeon and Public Health Advocate

“Somewhere along the way I decided that if I was going to be a nurse, I might as well become a doctor.” [7]

Dickens was a record-breaker several times in her long life. She was the first black woman named as a fellow by the American College of Surgeons and elected to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, along with being the first female African American board-certified Ob/gyn in Philadelphia. She worked tirelessly for the poor and underprivileged and was an early advocate of using Pap smears to detect cervical cancer.

Sheryl Sandberg, Technology Executive

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” [8]

Sandberg, an economist and business woman, served as Chief of Staff for United States Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers before moving on to work at tech giant Google. She then went on to be the first woman on the board of Facebook and is known for her writing and activism for women in technology and business.

Rachel Carson, Environmental Scientist and Author

“We have been troubled about the world, and had almost lost faith in man; it helps to think about the long history of the earth, and of how life came to be. And when we think in terms of millions of years, we are not so impatient that our own problems be solved tomorrow.” [9]

Carson, the subject of IEA’s most recent Genius Day, was an environmental scientist and author whose book, Silent Spring, brought attention to the dangers of pesticides in the natural environment. Her work was instrumental in inspiring a movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her environmental activism.

What quotes from women in STEM do you love?

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[1] Quanta Magazine, “A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces”, 2014

[2] Academy of Achievement, 2006

[3] Madame Curie: A Biography, 1937

[4] Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, 2009

[5] Fox Business, 2014

[6] Cosmic Radiations: From Astronomy to Particle Physics, 2001

[7] Franklin’s Daughters: Profiles of Penn Women, 2001

[8] Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, 2013

[9] Speech accepting the John Burroughs Medal, 1952

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