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SD Union Tribune – Women in Biotech Salk

Bradley J Fikes, 3/23/2017

For 300 teenage women, Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn shared words of encouragement and issued an appeal to duty Thursday.

Science is a fascinating career, opportunities in it for women are increasing and the world depends on the contributions of female scientists, she said.

And Blackburn, president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, pointed to examples of this work from scientists on the Salk campus. Clodagh O’Shea uses viruses to fight cancer. Corina Antal led a study that explained why certain drugs intended to fight cancer actually make the disease worse.

“Science is knowledge,” Blackburn said, quoting O’Shea. “Knowledge improves the human condition. In the purest sense, it’s a celebration of life.”

“STAY CURIOUS! SCIENCE NEEDS YOU!” read the last slide of Blackburn’s pep talk.

Students not only heard from Blackburn, but also from a panel of six female scientists who told of their own challenges and successes. The speakers were two Salk researchers and scientists at the San Diego Zoo & Wildlife Park and DNA-sequencing giant Illumina.

What brought everyone together was the second annual “Women in Biotech” event, presented at the Salk Institute as part of the STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Math) Leadership Series. The audience consisted of the 300 students from six high schools in the San Diego Unified School District.

The series is supported by the school district, the San Diego Foundation, Intellectual Capital and others. Its next event is scheduled for June 1 on the USS Midway Museum in downtown San Diego, said Steve Chapple, an organizer of the series.

More information can be found at Previous events can be viewed at

Blackburn shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her role in discovering telomerase, an enzyme that repairs telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes.

Driven by her innate curiosity about how life works, Blackburn studied a single-celled organism that has numerous telomeres, leading to the discovery of telomerase. As it turned out, this enzyme is used widely in life, including in humans. Telomere dysfunctions are involved in both aging and cancer, which has made the field a hot subject of study.

“Bringing young women and diverse people into science is absolutely critical,” Blackburn said before the talk, underscoring the importance their achievements can make. “Science needs all the brains that can be brought into it. And the more we attract people from every way of thinking, the better it is for science.”

Blackburn said she got considerable support when she was starting out at an all-girls’ school. But once she entered college, she had to look for mentors and make her own path. While all scientists have to formulate career choices, it’s easier if they know starting out what the possibilities are.

In addition, Blackburn said it’s vital to keep people excited about science over the long term.

Megan Moreau, an 11th grader from Clairemont High School, belongs to that school’s health and medical academy — reflecting an interest she’s had since being a freshman. She heard of STEAM from a teacher, and on Thursday, she was looking to get examples from the speakers of how they have forged scientific careers as women.

Karen Ngo, a senior at Mira Mesa High School, said she became acquainted with STEAM through her own volunteer work at elementary schools.

“Hopefully, I’ll get a little insight into what it’s like to be in biotechnology, especially since I’m a biology major,” Ngo said.

Originally Posted by the San Diego Union Tribune

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NBC Covers Drones on the USS Midway

San Diego middle and high school students got a special treat Friday morning. Local high-tech leaders talked with students about the latest inventions they are working on.Speakers also shared how students can start working toward a career in the industry. NBC 7’s Elena Gomez was at the Midway Museum for the event. (Published Friday, Jun 5, 2015)

Link to NBC7 SD Coverage Here

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SD Foundation – Women in Biotech #2 Salk

“Stay Curious! Science Needs You!”

These were the encouraging words Nobel Prize winner and Salk Institute for Biological Studies CEO Elizabeth Blackburn shared with 300 teenage girls as her presentation came to a close at a recent event held at Salk’s auditorium in La Jolla.

The all-female audience consisted of students from six different high schools in the San Diego Unified School District, all of whom gathered to attend “Women in Biotech”.

The event was the most recent installment in the STEAM Leadership Series that aims to connect students with local executives in STEAM-oriented careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

The San Diego Foundation is a founding sponsor of the program, which is put on by Intellectual Capital and Kids Eco Club, in partnership with San Diego Unified School District.

“I learned that it really means a lot to be a woman in [the biotech] field,” said San Diego High School student Deandra Escanuela, who hopes to pursue a career in Medicine. ”To be a Hispanic girl, it would mean a lot to me to pursue this career and have this influence from these women.”

In addition to Blackburn, the 2009 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology or Medicine, students heard from a panel of six local female scientists who shared stories of their ups and downs on their way to professional success, including:

  • Asako Navarro, M.S. Research Coordinator, San Diego Zoo & Wildlife Park
  • Megan Owen, PhD, Associate Director, Applied Animal Ecology, San Diego Zoo & Wildlife Park
  • Ida Khodami, Sr Manager, Engineering at ILLUMINA
  • Pantea Khodami, Manager, Market Development at ILLUMINA
  • Corina Antal, Evans Gene Expression Lab at Salk
  • Elena Blanco-Suarez, Allen Molecular Neurobiology Lab at Salk

Watch the first “Women in Biotech” event here >

The STEAM Leadership Series has reached more than 29,000 students in 25 San Diego high schools.

The second annual “Women in Biotech” event continued the mission of the STEAM Leadership Series to bridge the science, education and high-tech business communities along career pathways that empower young people to live their dreams and explore their options.

The next STEAM event is scheduled for June 1 on the USS Midway Museum. For more information, contact Steve Chapple at

Originally Posted by the San Diego Foundation