Harshini Mukundan, group leader of Physical Chemistry & Applied Spectroscopy (C-PCS), is among 120 women in science honored with statues in the Smithsonian during Women’s History Month in March. The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s IF/THEN® STEM program has partnered with the Smithsonian to present “#IfThenSheCan - The Exhibit.”
“It is wonderful to be a part of this celebration of women in science. There are so many amazing women scientists, and this is a first step towards celebrating their lives and many achievements,” Mukundan said.
The largest collection of statues of women ever assembled will debut on a national stage from March 5–27. During opening weekend, March 5 and 6, visitors were able to “meet” all 120 statues in the Arts + Industries Building, the Smithsonian Castle, and the adjacent Enid A. Haupt Garden. Beginning March 7, some statues were spread to participating Smithsonian galleries across the National Mall.
A private reception with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby and others was held Friday, March 4, at which Mukundan discussed the use of fieldable sensors and microfluidics chips in disease diagnosis. NBC’s Today Show covered the event live that morning.
The 120 life-size, 3D-printed statues are of a diverse coalition of contemporary women STEM innovators and role models leading a variety of fields, from protecting wildlife, discovering galaxies and building YouTube’s platform, to trying to cure cancer.
“These striking 3D-printed figures of remarkable women in STEM careers help us celebrate the incredible impact women continue to make on vital scientific endeavors,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. “This exhibition highlights how a more diverse, more inclusive workforce will strengthen our shared future.”
IF/THEN is an initiative designed by Lyda Hill Philanthropies to activate a culture shift among young girls to open their eyes to STEM careers. Mukundan and the other STEM innovators were selected through a rigorous process that identified them as leaders in their fields with a commitment to inspire the next generation. All were chosen by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Lyda Hill Philanthropies to serve as high-profile role models for middle school girls as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors.
The DOE laboratories’ honorees overall include:
- Amy Elliott, a group leader in robotics and intelligent systems and manufacturing scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Mercedes Taylor, a research chemist at Sandia National Laboratories, who creates new materials to purify water, store energy and conduct electricity.
- Harshini Mukundan, a chemistry group leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who is developing diagnostic tests that can be used in resource-poor regions of the world to help identify infections within minutes.
- J’Tia Hart, the chief scientist at Idaho National Laboratory, a former contestant on CBS’ Survivor, a former nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory and a past briefer to Secretaries of Energy.
- Jessica Esquivel is a Black Mexican and American physicist, and an associate scientist at Fermilab working on the Muon g-2 experiment. She is the BlackInPhysics Co-founder.