Bringing visibility to female innovators and pioneers in STEM

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya is a Creative Director and Design Strategist. She is the creator of Beyond Curie, a design project that highlights the rich history of women kicking-ass in STEM fields and the founder of The Leading Strand (theleadingstrand.org), an initiative that uses design to shine a light on breakthroughs happening in science. The Leading Strand pairs scientists and designers to co-create experiences that translate research in rigorous and visually compelling ways. Amanda studied neuroscience at Columbia University and conducted Alzheimer’s Disease research at Columbia Medical Center before becoming a designer. Here, she talks about her projects and how bridging the worlds of design and neuroscience can promote innovation and drive impact.

On April 22, 2017, I rode a train down to Washington DC with posters and umbrella in tow, ready to brave the elements to stand up for Science. It was a particularly cold and wet day in Washington, but I was excited because I had spent the last month designing a series of posters celebrating women in science. And I had partnered with the March for Science organizers to make them available for free.


After hours of braving the rain and listening to speakers, we were ready to march. Among the mass of people, I spotted a familiar design, a large beautifully bedazzled yellow poster of Rosalind Franklin — one of the posters I had designed. I pushed through the crowd and met an extraordinary scientist and her family. She was a PhD student who had come all the way from South Dakota to march for what she believed in and we took a photo together to capture this incredible moment.


My project, called Beyond Curie celebrates the rich history of women kicking ass in STEM fields and turns the image of the stereotypical scientist—old, white, male—on its head. By sharing the faces, stories, and accomplishments of these incredible women, we are giving these heroes the visibility they deserve and inspiring the next generation of innovators.


Each one of the 35 women featured in Beyond Curie, including 16 female Nobel winners, have made important contributions to the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine, biology, math, engineering, or technology. They have all surmounted incredible odds and faced down countless challenges for decades in the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and impact.


Some of the women featured in Beyond Curie include

• YouYou Tu, who has saved millions of lives by isolating a compound called artemisinin from the sweet wormwood plant that treats malaria

• Margaret Ann Bulkley, a 19th century surgeon in the British military who spent 56 years living as Dr. James Barry because women were barred from becoming physicians

• Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who invented the first compiler for a computer programing language


Since the project's launch in late February, Beyond Curie has raised more than $32,000 from over 602 individuals seeking to bring these women into their homes, workplaces, and classrooms, and has allowed me to make a meaningful contribution to the Association for Women in Science. Beyond Curie has been featured by Fast Company, Smithsonian Magazine, Glamour, and led me to speak at Microsoft’s Outside In speaker series on bringing more women into tech.


But what’s meant the most to me about this project is the individual responses I’ve heard from women in STEM, like this one:


“Firstly, I am a scientist, I'm a veterinarian going for a doctorate in Pathology. That said, when I saw your project, I couldn't think of many female scientists beyond Marie Curie and that hit me like a punch to the gut. It shocked me, it made me sad and then, it kinda made me angry! Projects like this make me proud to be in science. We need more of that.”


So what’s next? I’m launching a clothing line called ATOMIC by design for women and girls who aren’t afraid to wear their smarts on their sleeve. The project will feature shirts, dresses, and accessories centered around one of the 118 atomic elements. Each piece is cut and styled to be right at home with modern fashion, and comes with a beautifully designed booklet all about that element. From hydrogen, the lightest and most prolific element in the universe, to carbon, the quintessential connector and lynchpin of life— every element plays an important role in shaping our world.


Through projects like Beyond Curie and ATOMIC by design, I hope to continue fostering a deeper understanding of science and a richer human experience.


Let us know what you think of Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya’s project @4womeninscience.

L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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