Topic: Gender, Race, and the Politics of Recognition in the Discovery of RNA Splicing
Speaker: Pnina G. Abir-Am, WSRC - Brandeis University
Tuesday, 31 January 2023
12 PM EST (UTC-5)
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Presented by the INNS Women's Chapter


This talk focuses on the role of gender and race in depriving two woman scientists of East and South Asian origins, from receiving credit for their key roles in the discovery of RNA splicing. The talk discusses the contributions and careers of Louise Chow, born in China and raised in Taipei, and Sayeeda Zain, born in India and raised in Pakistan. Both became full professors at the University of Rochester Medical School in New York (NY) state, USA, but were not recognized for their key roles in the discovery of RNA splicing. Two male lab directors of British and North American origins, Richard Roberts of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, and Philip Sharp of MIT, (Cambridge, MA.) shared the Nobel Prize for this discovery in 1993. Belatedly, Louise Chow was elected to the National Academy of Science in USA in 2012. Sayeeda Zain became a prolific inventor. The talk further interrogates how scientists in leadership positions, such as lab directors and directors of research institutes, engaged in a politics of recognition which marginalized women scientists in general, and women scientists of color, in particular. The talk seeks to clarify how science policy interacts with gender and race bias to produce a politics of science which leads to a persisting under-representation of women in science.


Dr. Pnina Geraldine Abir-Am has published widely on the history of molecular biology, women and gender in science, public memory, and science funding. As Founding Series Editor of Lives of Women in Science (Rutgers University Press, New Jersey, USA) and Co-editor of Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives, Women in Science, 1789-1979 and Commemorative Practices in Science, among other collective volumes, she helped create new communities of scholars, especially in countries she held research and/or teaching positions. (Canada, France, Israel, UK, and USA) Her current research, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in USA, includes a forthcoming history of epistemic and gender justice in molecular biology. Pnina is the recipient of awards for outstanding research on women in science from the History of Science Society and the Specialized Information Industry & Associations’ Excel-2021. (both in USA).

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