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HWNI celebrates 150 years of women at Berkeley

By October 23, 2020No Comments
Screenshot from Neuroscience PhD student Julia Bleier’s qualifying exam, held remotely in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Pictured with Julia are her committee members: HWNI members Helen Bateup, Diana Bautista, and Marla Feller, and HWNI collaborator Polina Lishko.

Screenshot from Neuroscience PhD student Julia Bleier’s qualifying exam, held remotely in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Pictured with Julia are her committee members: HWNI members Helen Bateup, Diana Bautista, and Marla Feller, and HWNI collaborator Polina Lishko.

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ decision to allow women to be admitted to UC Berkeley. In honor of this important milestone, the campus is celebrating with the 150 Years of Women at Berkeley project, which highlights the achievements of Berkeley women past and present. At the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI), we would like to acknowledge and honor the many women who have made critical contributions to HWNI’s educational and research missions, and to Berkeley and the world as a whole. 

Our institute is named after Helen Wills (UC Berkeley class of 1925), in honor of her 1995 gift that established an endowment for the Neuroscience PhD Program. Wills was considered one of the world’s greatest tennis champions, and won gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Her achievements netted her a position on a timeline honoring 150 years of Berkeley women from California Magazine.

The timeline also recognizes Marian Diamond, a world-renowned neuroscientist and educator who pioneered the field of neural plasticity. Diamond was a Berkeley alum (BA 1948, MA 1949, PhD 1953), professor of integrative biology at Berkeley, and member of HWNI. This August, she was selected as one of ten California Women of the Century by USA TODAY.

Women scientists have been an important part of our institute from the very beginning, when HWNI was co-founded by former Berkeley professor Carla Shatz in 1997. Visit our faculty and PhD student pages to learn about the outstanding women who are current members of our community, and our alumni profile page, which features several of our women PhD Program alumni.

We are also proud that our alumni Emily Jacobs and Annaliese Beery have been examining gender bias in neuroscience. Earlier this year, Jacobs published “Why Neuroscience Needs Girls: Gender Diversity Drives Scientific Discovery” in a journal for kids, Frontiers for Young Minds, founded by HWNI member Bob Knight. In the article, Jacobs describes pivotal research by Beery that found that female animals are underrepresented in biological research studies, particularly in neuroscience. Beery will be returning to UC Berkeley in July 2021 as a faculty member in the integrative biology department.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of HWNI women, this year and every year!