As debates continue over gender-bias in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and careers for women (e.g. Karen Purcell), it is timely to celebrate three high-achieving female botanists. First is a real hard-core botanical appointment: Beverley Glover has just taken up the reins as the new Director of the Botanic Garden at the University of Cambridge (UK), along with an associated Professorship in Plant Systematics and Evolution. Recognising the great opportunity to reach out to the wider public and impress upon them the importance of botany that the position represents, Prof. Glover is reported as saying that ‘the Botanic Garden is a central and much-loved part of both the University and the wider community. It is a great privilege and honour to be asked to lead its continued development’. And she is no stranger to accolades, having received the Linnean Society Bicentennial Medal in 2010 and the William Bate Hardy prize from the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 2011. Also at the University of Cambridge, Ottoline Leyser CBE FRS has recently taken over as Director of its Sainsbury Laboratory, as well as continuing her role as a Professor of Plant Development at the University’s Department of Plant Sciences. Commenting on her new role, Prof. Leyser said that ‘this is a really exciting time to be a plant biologist. We have an impressive array of tools and technologies to make rapid progress and the Sainsbury Laboratory will be at the forefront of a new integrative approach to understanding biological systems’. And Prof. Leyser will certainly be kept busy! She is additionally a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences, a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, a Fellow of Clare College, the President of International Plant Molecular Biology, a member of the Council of the Royal Society, and Deputy Chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. And from the home of the original Sainsbury Laboratory, the John Innes Centre’s Prof. Cathie Martin was last year elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her distinguished contributions to plant biology. Although 701 other scientists were similarly elevated, that honour is rarely bestowed on non-US scientists. Professor Martin believes the award recognises her ‘fundamental research into the nutritional benefits of plant-based foods and new features in publishing…developed as editor-in-chief of The Plant Cell’. Whilst rightly celebrating those successes, one is reminded that there are also issues over the advancement of men in STEM careers (e.g. Andrew Moore). If we hear of any equivalent, deserving male good-news stories, we’ll be sure to bring them to you!
Women on top…
I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.