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Celebrating Women in Medicinal Chemistry

According to multiple metrics, women account for approximately 20% of the medicinal chemistry community. Among the suggestions made to improve this disparity was elevating the visibility of excellent women medicinal chemists. To celebrate women’s history month, I spoke with editors from ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters and Journal of Medicinal Chemistry about women in the field who have inspired them and advice they would give other young women today.

Dr. Donna Huryn

Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, and a PI of the University of Pittsburgh Chemical Diversity Center

What women in medicinal chemistry inspires you most and why?

Gunda Georg is particularly inspiring. She has a career in academic medicinal chemistry and academic drug discovery that is exemplified by excellence, tenacity, broad expertise, and leadership in our field.

What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in medicinal chemistry?

My advice would be to identify and work on important projects or scientific questions that you can bring your unique expertise to. And believe in yourself and trust yourself.

Maria Laura Bolognesi

Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Coordinator of the Biotechnological, Biocomputational, Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences Ph.D. Program at the University of Bologna

What women in medicinal chemistry inspires you most and why?

I am glad to share with you two of my favorites. From the past: Laura Bassi, an Italian scientist of the 18th Century and the first woman in the Western world to obtain a tenured academic position in STEM.

From the present: Gunda Georg, one of the most important medicinal chemists, the first female Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a role model. They not only embody scientists at the very top, but also engaged, supportive, and dedicated human beings.

Thank you both!

What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in medicinal chemistry?

Keep working hard and follow your dreams, while investing in human relations. No (wo)man is an island and medicinal chemistry is an inherently multidisciplinary field. We, as individuals and as scientists, can only thrive if immersed in a truly diverse environment. Activating and nurturing professional – but also personal – diverse interactions bring clear benefits to our career, but also to our personal life. Today medicinal chemistry is facing complex challenges that require encompassing strategies backed up by global, diverse, intergenerational, and gender-equal cooperation.

Maria Jesus Blanco

Head Of Chemistry at ‎Sage Therapeutics

What women in medicinal chemistry inspires you most and why?

Gertrude Elion is an inspiration for women in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. Despite an era where women were not accepted in science careers or getting a Ph.D., she persevered and accomplished so much. She was recognized with a Nobel prize. Yet she is not widely known by the general public or even the scientific community. I would like to see an ACS Award honor her legacy.

What advice would you give to a young woman just starting out in the Medicinal Chemistry field?

Be curious and think BIG. Don’t underestimate the value of mentoring and networking while establishing your technical competence. Build your mentoring network from an early stage in your career. Volunteer at professional associations like ACS to expand your network and leadership skills.

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