HerStory Sock Club – July 2018

We all know the feeling: you walk into your kitchen, prepared to start your day, and a cloud of wee annoyances lift off of an overripe banana on your countertop. Your kitchen has been besieged by those unruly, buggy little things we all know as fruit flies. But just imagine if you will, that one of these wee annoyances and instead see the key to understanding just how genetics work. Imagine seeing the beauty and the possibility in a cloud of fruit flies. Well, that’s what our July HerStory recipient, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, did. She embraced (not literally, because fruit flies are teensy) the little buggers and figured out how genes control embryonic development.

Born in 1942 in Magdeburg, Germany, Nüsslein-Volhard was a precocious child, always interested in biology and the natural sciences. Her grades throughout primary school were mediocre, as she professed to not give time and energy to the subjects that didn’t interest her. She attended Goethe Frankfurt University in Frankfurt in the early 1960s, but found herself feeling unchallenged and bored, so transferred to the University of Tübingen when they debuted a biochemistry program in the mid-1960s. Tübingen housed the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research, and was host to visiting scientists from a variety of fields, which proved to be inspiring to our young research. While at Tübingen, she briefly married and gained a hyphenated name, but when the marriage ended in divorce, she kept both names, as she

Continue reading “HerStory Sock Club – July 2018”

HerStory Sock Club – May 2018

Meet Françoise Barre-Sinoussi

This month, our HerStory recipient is the scientist who discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS. Françoise Barre-Sinoussi was born in Paris, France, in July of 1947. As a young girl, she was fascinated by the workings of the natural world. She’d spend hours observing insect behavior on family vacations, and quickly realized that she was destined for a life in the natural sciences. Once grown and schooled, she joined the Pasteur Institute in Paris in the 1970s, and worked on retrovirus research. In 1996, she became the head of the Retrovirus Biology Unit (later called Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit). For all of her work and dedication, Barre­-Sinoussi won the Nobel Prize in 2008, along with the colleagues she discovered HIV with.

Françoise Barre-Sinoussi thought she’d have the typical life of a research scientist, specializing in retroviruses, doing the work, putting in the time. And that all would have created a wonderful life, full of good work on important diseases without a huge effect on her entire life. That is, until an infectious-disease specialist called the Pasteur Institute and asked her to look for a retrovirus in a new disease that had been wreaking havoc all over the world. This disease was AIDS, and her work on it would change her life forever.

Continue reading “HerStory Sock Club – May 2018”

HerStory Sock Club – April 2018

Meet Maryam Mirzakhani

April’s honoree was a little heart-hard for us. We first heard about Maryam Mirzakhani when she passed away last year at the age of 40 from breast cancer. The fact that many Iranian newspapers, (and even the President) decided to share her photo, head uncovered, even though she didn’t live by religious law, was really striking. This was a woman who had blazed so many trails in her 40 short years on earth that it was deemed more important to honor her than respect long-standing cultural taboos surrounding the rules her birth society imposed on women.

Maryam Mirzakhani was born in 1977 in Tehran, Iran. She quickly began to amass what would be a long list of mathematical “firsts”: she was the first female student to receive the gold medal level in the International Mathematics Olympiad in 1994, and the next year, became the first Iranian student, either male OR female, to achieve a perfect score and win two gold medals. Her entire school and work career, she was blazing trails and breaking glass ceilings, y’all. After earning her BS in Mathematics from the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, she journeyed to the US, to Harvard, for her graduate work. She was a relentless and inquisitive learner, and didn’t let the language barrier get her down. Her class notes were in Farsi; she communicated with her peers and professors in

Continue reading “HerStory Sock Club – April 2018”

HerStory Sock Club – March 2018

Meet Tu Youyou


Tu Youyou was born, raised, worked, and did all of her research in China. Most of her work was done during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1960s and 1970s), a time when science was not held in high regard. In fact, scientists (and all intellectuals) were considered to be of a societal caste only one step above beggars, which were abhorred. They were known as the Stinking old Ninth, as in the ninth caste. But the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai, understood the significance and importance of science, and when asked by the North Vietnamese government to help figure out a way to treat the malaria that was decimating their soldiers, he put together a secret task force, known as Mission 523 (it was formed on May 23rd, 1967, hence the name 523).
Continue reading “HerStory Sock Club – March 2018”

HerStory Sock Club – February 2018

Meet Sau Lan Wu

Sau Lan Wu, a scientist who’s been making a mark in her field since her graduate student days. The discoveries in particle physics that she has made make our knitterly brains feel a bit…scrambled. They all have the sweetest names (Charm Quark, Gluon, Higgs Boson) with super important, understanding-the-world-we-live-in significance. We’re making our best effort to distill the information we’ve been researching into a snappy little letter, but a big grain of salt to all of you actual scientists out there: PLEASE forgive us our lack of actual scientific knowledge surrounding this stuff. To misquote Dr. McCoy from Star Trek: “Dammit, people! We’re fiber artists, not scientists!”

Continue reading “HerStory Sock Club – February 2018”