Women in Bioconjugate Chemistry: Celebrating Women Scientists

Professor Erin Lavik of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is an Associate Editor of Bioconjugate Chemistry.

A number of years ago, I was helping to organize an event with some exceptional scientists, and I asked that we highlight the fact that we had so many strong women scientists. It was explained to me that scientists who are women do not want to be viewed as women scientists, and it would be better not to highlight their gender and embarrass them. I resist the idea that when women are successful as scientists, their gender should be handled so delicately. It certainly is not handled delicately in any other situation.

Many years ago, I was a senior in high school dreaming about college. When I did the college tour, every college looked a lot like an extension of my private high school, which I hated so dearly, but MIT looked like the land of possibility. I could finally be an engineer and stop having people tell me I did not belong in science. I remember going to the post office and the woman at the desk handing me the letter from MIT. “We are pleased….” I started crying. So did the postal clerk. So did my mom. I was going to be an engineer.

Even though the pouring rain, I went to school that morning walking on a newfound planet. I was going to be leaving this stink hole of a prep school to do Something That Mattered. I was getting out. In physics class, the men were talking about where they were going. One of them asked me if I knew. Yes, I knew. Where? MIT. “Really. You got in?” Yes, I did. “That’s just because you’re a girl.”

I had a crush on this boy until 10:03 am on a wet Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, while my crush ended, the comments did not. When I was lucky enough to get a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship, one of my friends explained that it was easier for women to get them. When I got my first faculty position, one of my colleagues stopped by to let me know that I was there because I was a woman. Every honor, every award has been explained to me and my talent dismissed by reminding me of my gender.

Therefore, I unabashedly celebrate women in science and call on my colleagues to do the same. Celebrate the women who are collaborating across disciplines, developing new understanding and new ideas. Celebrate the women who publish groundbreaking research in our journal and in all the journals beyond ours. Celebrate the women who are not letting the trappings of other people’s expectations and assumptions define what is possible. Science is better for women scientists, and the world is better for their discoveries.

In that spirit, Bioconjugate Chemistry is happy to present the “Women in Bioconjugate Chemistry: Celebrating Women Scientists” Virtual Issue!

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Karine Auclair

Allosteric Activation of Cytochrome P450 3A4 via Progesterone Bioconjugation

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (4), pp 885–889

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00604

Would you ever leave science or engineering? Why?

“A career unrelated to science is simply unimaginable for me. I don’t see where else I would fit or be able to contribute. My guess is that I will leave my current job only when I retire, at which time my goal will be to spend more time with loved ones and my horses.” 

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Debra T. Auguste

RGD-Targeted Liposome Binding and Uptake on Breast Cancer Cells Is Dependent on Elastin Linker Secondary Structure

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (8), pp 1813–1821

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00205

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Annette G. Beck-Sickinger

Peptide-Mediated Specific Immobilization of Catalytically Active Cytochrome P450 BM3 Variant

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (4), pp 1090–1097

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00074

What was the most challenging experience you ever had as a scientist or engineer?

“The combination of raising children and carrier management is challenging. This I had to learn as many women who combine both – a scientific carrier and the management of a family with two children. But I would always do it again, as both parts add different aspects of life and are highly rewarding.”

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Isabelle Bestel

Amphiphilic Phospholipid-Based Riboflavin Derivatives for Tumor Targeting Nanomedicines

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (9), pp 2048–2061

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00317

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Jillian M. Buriak

Conjugation of A and B Blood Group Structures to Silica Microparticles for the Detection of Antigen-Specific B Cells

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (3), pp 705–715

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.5b00672

What is your happiest moment in science or engineering so far?

“The happiest moment of science was meeting other editors-in-chief of ACS journals.  I had just been appointed as editor-in-chief of the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials, and I was extremely nervous and intimidated – a real case of imposter syndrome.  This remarkably funny, friendly, and dedicated group welcomed me, and they have taught me so much.  For that, I am, to this day, so grateful.”

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Kate S. Carroll

Reactivity, Selectivity, and Stability in Sulfenic Acid Detection: A Comparative Study of Nucleophilic and Electrophilic Probes

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (5), pp 1411–1418

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00181

Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why? 

“Yes, we are very lucky to get to what we do every day, pursuing ideas and training the next generation of thinkers.”

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Omolola Eniola-Adefeso

Differential Impact of Plasma Proteins on the Adhesion Efficiency of Vascular-Targeted Carriers (VTCs) in Blood of Common Laboratory Animals

Bioconjug. Chem., 2015, 26 (12), pp 2419–2428

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.5b00474

What is your happiest moment in science or engineering so far?

“The moment I got the news of the funding of NSF CAREER award.”

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Simonetta Geninatti Crich

Ferritin Decorated PLGA/Paclitaxel Loaded Nanoparticles Endowed with an Enhanced Toxicity toward MCF-7 Breast Tumor Cells

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (4), pp 1283–1290

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00096

Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why?

“Yes! even though now I know that being a scientist is a tiring job, I’m still happy because it’s stimulating and creative.”

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Laura Fabris

Multiparametric Assessment of Gold Nanoparticle Cytotoxicity in Cancerous and Healthy Cells: The Role of Size, Shape, and Surface Chemistry

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (2), pp 449–460

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00605

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer? 

“I remember that when I was probably 12 or 13 the Italian national TV was broadcasting a series of special documentaries dedicated to various areas of science. One of these episodes talked about scientists at Caltech. I think that this was the first time I thought “I want to be like them”. So I guess this was the first time I consciously realized I wanted to be a scientist.”

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Qiao-Jun Fang

Polymer–KLAK Peptide Conjugates Induce Cancer Cell Death through Synergistic Effects of Mitochondria Damage and Autophagy Blockage

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (6), pp 1709–1721

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00176

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Rosa Fernandes

Mitochondria-Targeted Photodynamic Therapy with a Galactodendritic Chlorin to Enhance Cell Death in Resistant Bladder Cancer Cells

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (11), pp 2762–2769

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00519

 *** 

Dorota Gryko

Vitamin B12 Suitably Tailored for Disulfide-Based Conjugation

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (1), pp 189–197

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.5b00599

What was the most challenging experience you ever had as a scientist or engineer?

“As a scientist, we encounter challenges every day – new projects, running the group/lab, and in my case giving lectures.”

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Sarah C. Heilshorn

Tyrosine-Selective Functionalization for Bio-Orthogonal Cross-Linking of Engineered Protein Hydrogels

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (3), pp 724–730

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00720

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer? 

“Growing up, I enjoyed lots of different subjects and interests, including the sciences, foreign languages, and visual and performing arts. I think I first realized that engineering research was the right career choice for me during my first co-op job as an undergraduate student. I was working in a research & development lab and realized that this career combined creativity together with rigorous, analytical thinking in a way that was really fun for me.”

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Sophia Hober

Site-Specific Photolabeling of the IgG Fab Fragment Using a Small Protein G Derived Domain

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (9), pp 2095–2102

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00346

What is your happiest moment in science or engineering so far?

“There are so many happy moments so I’m not able to choose one. Both the very special moments when troublesome and challenging projects get a breakthrough as well as the moments when I see that my PhD-students are reaching next level of understanding.”

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Andrea M. Kasko

Designing Hybrid Antibiotic Peptide Conjugates To Cross Bacterial Membranes

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (3), pp 793–804

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00725

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer? 

“I was in 8th-grade Advanced Science, and I distinctly remember my teacher, Mr. Hedberg, trying to explain the difference between a covalent bond and an ionic bond.  I can still see his chalkboard drawings in my mind!  It was like love at first sight between me and chemistry, but the only thing I really knew then was that I wanted to know more.”

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Jianping Liu

Multifunctional Dextran Sulfate-Coated Reconstituted High Density Lipoproteins Target Macrophages and Promote Beneficial Antiatherosclerotic Mechanisms

Bioconjugate Chem., 2017, 28 (2), pp 438–448

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00600

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Michelle T. Ma

Enhancing PET Signal at Target Tissue in Vivo: Dendritic and Multimeric Tris(hydroxypyridinone) Conjugates for Molecular Imaging of αvβ3Integrin Expression with Gallium-68

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (2), pp 481–495

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00621 

Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why?

“Yes. Other jobs might be less frustrating at times, but for me, I think they would also be less exciting and less stimulating. It has been a real joy to be able to explore ideas, try new things, and work with students, other chemists, and scientists to drive chemical technology forward.”

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Heather D. Maynard

Trehalose Glycopolymer Enhances Both Solution Stability and Pharmacokinetics of a Therapeutic Protein

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (3), pp 836–845

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00659

What was the most challenging experience you ever had as a scientist or engineer?

 “I believe it was starting as an assistant professor and applying for funding for my lab that first year.  Back then I used to pull all-nighters to get the grants in before I decided getting sleep is really important.”

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Francesca Milletti

Identification of Short Hydrophobic Cell-Penetrating Peptides for Cytosolic Peptide Delivery by Rational Design

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (2), pp 382–389

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00535

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Teri W. Odom

Gold Nanoparticle Size and Shape Effects on Cellular Uptake and Intracellular Distribution of siRNA Nanoconstructs

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (6), pp 1791–1800

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00252

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer? 

“College. Unlike many of my colleagues, I was not a science “geek” when I was a kid. I didn’t compete in science fairs or tinker with a (mostly unused) chemistry set. I was just as inspired and curious about the natural world as I was about numerous other subjects. It wasn’t until college and my introduction to quantum mechanics — and “seeing” atoms in scanning tunneling microscopy images — that I became interested in research.”

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Cristina Peixoto

Bioorthogonal Strategy for Bioprocessing of Specific-Site-Functionalized Enveloped Influenza-Virus-Like Particles

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (10), pp 2386–2399

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00372

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Monica Piras

NGR Tumor-Homing Peptides: Structural Requirements for Effective APN (CD13) Targeting

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (5), pp 1332–1340

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00136

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Suzie H. Pun

Engineering an Affinity-Enhanced Peptide through Optimization of Cyclization Chemistry

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (12), pp 2854–2862

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00502

What was the most challenging experience you ever had as a scientist or engineer?

 “I think my first few years as an assistant professor were very challenging. In addition to the technical challenges, I also felt uncertainty and self-doubt. As one of my wise colleagues said, we are trained as researchers, but when we become professors, researching is actually a relatively small fraction of what we have to do.”

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Theresa M. Reineke

Lipophilic Polycation Vehicles Display High Plasmid DNA Delivery to Multiple Cell Types

Bioconjug. Chem., 2017, 28 (8), pp 2035–2040

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.7b00306

Would you ever leave science or engineering? Why?

 “Honestly, there have been difficult moments when this question has crossed my mind, however, the answer is no.  Mentoring our future generation of scientists and engineers, fostering their development as professional people, and instilling the importance of scientific discovery while maintaining good professional relationships are all very important to me in my position as a professor.”

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Johnna S. Temenoff

Effect of Selective Heparin Desulfation on Preservation of Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 Bioactivity after Thermal Stress

Bioconjug. Chem., 2015, 26 (2), pp 286–293

DOI: 10.1021/bc500565x

When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist or engineer?

“Probably before this, but the first time I remember for sure was in high schoolhtt, when, while looking at colleges, I came across the relatively new field of biomedical engineering.  Engineering applied to the human body?  What could be better?”

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Kathryn E. Uhrich

Amphiphilic Macromolecule Self-Assembled Monolayers Suppress Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation

Bioconjug. Chem., 2015, 26 (7), pp 1359–1369

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.5b00208

Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why?

“Absolutely.  Being a scientist is the best thing in the world.  I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t want to be a scientist.  We ask difficult questions, then do experiments to test those questions, and get answers.  It’s awesome!”

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Fan Wang

99mTc-HisoDGR as a Potential SPECT Probe for Orthotopic Glioma Detection via Targeting of Integrin α5β1

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (5), pp 1259–1266

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00098

Knowing what you do now know, would you be a scientist or engineer again? Why? 

“Yes, I still want to be a scientist. It is a part of my life, I love it and enjoy it.”

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Keiko Yamamoto

Helix12-Stabilization Antagonist of Vitamin D Receptor

Bioconjug. Chem., 2016, 27 (7), pp 1750–1761

DOI: 10.1021/acs.bioconjchem.6b00246

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