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Scientists mentor future female discoverers

May 27, 2011

To better understand career paths in science, 10 young women who recently placed at the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair spent a day shadowing women scientists at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

The science fair winners’ day at ASU was part of a collaborative effort with other ASU researchers who are members of the Association of Women in Science Central Arizona Chapter.

“Young scientists need meaningful interactions with researchers,” said Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, of the Biodesign Institute’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. She and Anca Delgado, a graduate student, hosted the students for a lab tour. “It shows them what doing successful and meaningful research is possible and helps them to stick with it. Because there are fewer women scientists, girls especially benefit from this personal interaction, and seeing the girls so engaged and asking relevant questions makes me excited about their future in research.”

Krajmalnik-Brown and Michal Ziv-El, another one of her graduate students, served as science fair mentors to Alexandra Polasko, a recent graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory Academy. Polasko worked with DehaloR^2, a new microbial dechlorinating culture developed in Dr Krajmalnik-Brown’s lab. This culture destroys chlorinated water contaminants such as the carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE). In the statewide competition, Polasko placed second in the microbiology category and earned four awards. She will advance to compete for the Stockholm International Water Institute’s Junior Water Prize.

In addition to Krajmalnik-Brown and Delgado, hosting scientists from the Biodesign Institute included: Shelley Haydel and Susan Holechek, of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology; Hansa Thompson, Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation; and Jeanette Nangreave, Center for Single Molecule Biophysics.

Other participating ASU researchers included: Lilian Ostrach and Wendy Taylor, of the School of Earth and Space Exploration; Heather Bimonte-Nelson and Mary Davis, of the Department of Psychology; and Jessica Amacher, Page Baluch, Rebecca Clark, staff member Peggy Coulombe, Sharon Crook, Liz Makings, Caitlin Otto, and Stephanie Wilson of the School of Life Sciences.

More information about the Association of Women in Science is available at