Women in Science Wednesdays

While women fill close to half of all jobs in the United States, they hold less than 25 percent of positions within the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Even as college-educated women have increased their share in the overall workforce, our country’s science and technology sectors continue to lack a female presence.

To help close this gap, UNC research is sharing their stories — from the depths of the ocean to the crest of a mountain, with projects that impact our state, the nation, and the world. Carolina’s female scientists from all areas of STEM are making waves in the world of research. Join us each week as our scientists share their unique perspectives on the rigors of research, and advice for other women in their fields.

Thu-Mai Christian

Thu-Mai Christian is the assistant director for archives at the Odum Institute for Social Science. Her research focuses on how to make data management and sharing integral to normative research practice. She is also responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the Odum Institute Data Archive.

Penny Gordon-Larsen

Penny Gordon-Larsen is a professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Nutrition within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is also a fellow within the Carolina Population Center and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies. Her research integrates biology, behavior, and environment to understand, prevent, and treat obesity and its associated cardiometabolic diseases.

Esther Kwon

Rising senior Esther Kwon is an undergraduate researcher and recent SURF recipient within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences majoring in biology, with a minor in chemistry. Her research focuses on two different types of histones — proteins found in chromatin — and how they function within fruit flies.

Cathi Propper

Cathi Propper is senior scientist within and interim director of the UNC Center for Developmental Science. Her research focuses on the physiological functioning, temperament, and genetics of infants and how their early experiences influence their social-emotional, cognitive, and behavioral development.

Tori Ehrhardt

Tori Ehrhardt is a rising senior in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, double-majoring in psychology and biology. She is also an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Psychiatry within the UNC School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the use of probiotics in pregnancy and their effects on the microbiome.

Cheryl Giscombe

Cheryl Giscombe is the Melissa and Harry LeVine Family Professor of Quality of Life, Health Promotion, and Wellness within the UNC School of Nursing and a Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholar. Her research focuses on developing ways to resolve stress and its effects on health behaviors, physiology, and health outcomes.

Savannah Swinea

Rising senior Savannah Swinea is an undergraduate researcher within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences majoring in environmental science, with a minor in marine science. Her research focuses on the effects of streambed clogging on water exchange, which she studies in the UNC fluids lab via a racetrack flume.

Min Zheng

Min Zheng is a research associate in the Department of Ophthalmology within the UNC School of Medicine. Her research focuses on using nanotechnologies in gene and drug delivery for treating ocular disorders.

Rachel Noble

Rachel Noble is the Mary and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Professor at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences. She is also a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences and director of the Institute for the Environment’s Morehead City field site. Her research focuses on understanding the abundance and ecology of dangerous bacteria and viruses that are found in the ocean and within seafood.

Cleo Samuel

Cleo Samuel is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research focuses on improving the equity and quality of supportive cancer care — such as care that optimizes comfort, function, social support, and overall quality of life — through the use of health informatics tools that address systemic barriers to care.