Women in Science Lecture Series
The Women in Science Lecture Series provides an opportunity to meet outstanding female scientists and physicians and learn about their cutting-edge research.
The series is a membership program with five enlightening presentations, in lay language, designed to draw attention to scientific research projects at MCW as well as generate support for female scientists who serve as role models and mentors.
This successful series has been going strong since 2007.
Women in Science Founding Members & CommitteeDonate Now
It was inspiring to see the impact and contributions that women in science are currently making towards improving human health!
Women in Science guest
Women in Science 2021 Lecture Series
Allison Ebert, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology Neurobiology and Anatomy
Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Ebert presented the foundational properties of stem cells and discuss how they can be used, or misused, to study development and treat diseases.
Melinda Dwinell, PhD
Professor, Department of Physiology, Genomic Sciences & Precision Medicine Center
Research Collaboration, Serendipity, and Following the Yellow Brick Road
Dr. Dwinell discussed how her career path crossed with influential partners and developed into collaborative projects, eventually pushed outside of her comfort zone to develop a coordination center and data “toolkit” for an NIH initiative focused on somatic cell genome editing.
Professor & Director, Epidemiology
Director, PhD Program in Public and Community Health
Founding Director, MS Program in Global Health Equity
Programs and Partnerships to Promote Health Equity, Locally and Globally
Public Health works at the local level, within cities and communities and neighborhoods, but also on national and international scales. Dr. Cassidy described efforts to improve health equity in Wisconsin and also in low-to-middle income countries.
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Division of Neuropsychology
The Spectrum of Typical Aging to Dementia: Current Knowledge and Future Research
There is nothing “normal” about aging. In this presentation, Dr. Umfleet discussed typical and atypical aging, dementia biomarkers, treatments for dementia, and future research.
Women in Science Awards
The Woman Pioneer in Research Award is given annually to honor and recognize an established Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) female, non-binary or genderqueer faculty member for outstanding, internationally recognized basic science, translational, clinical, educational, or community research. Additional selection criteria may include leadership, mentorship, teaching, advocacy for women and community engagement.
An award of $10,000 will be given to the awardee to support future research endeavors.
Daisy Sahoo, PhD, FAHA
Professor and vice chair for research, department of medicine, division of endocrinology & molecular medicine
Dr. Sahoo received her Bachelor of Science degree (with Honors) in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa (Canada) in 1995 and her Doctorate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta (Canada) in 2002. She pursued her postdoctoral work at Stony Brook University where she began her studies of SR-BI, the receptor for high density lipoprotein, HDL, or the “good cholesterol”. In 2007, Dr. Sahoo joined the faculty at the Medical College of Wisconsin as an Assistant Professor and has risen the ranks to tenured Professor. Over the past 14 years at MCW, Dr. Sahoo has received continuous NIH funding to study how the structural features of SR-BI influence HDL-cholesterol clearance. Her studies apply structural and cellular biology tools to cultured cells and animal models. Dr. Sahoo’s other funded research interests include the role of oxidative stress in HDL dysfunction, adipocyte cholesterol metabolism, as well as the interplay between hyperlipidemia and gammaherpesvirus infection. Dr. Sahoo plays an active role in medical and graduate education, takes pride in mentoring trainees and early career faculty, and continues to be a strong advocate for the career advancement of women at all stages in their career. In her role as Vice Chair for Research, she has built an infrastructure to support the diverse research efforts of nearly 130 faculty. Dr. Sahoo is also an active reviewer for the NIH and participates on the leadership team of the American Heart Association (AHA). In 2017, Dr. Sahoo received the “Special Recognition Award in Vascular Biology” from the AHA in recognition of her scientific contributions, as well as her service to the AHA. In 2021, she completed her term as President of MCW’s Faculty Council.
The Rising Pioneer Award is given annually to honor a Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) female, non-binary or genderqueer faculty member who is in the rising stage of their research trajectory. The award will recognize a qualified faculty member whose research is pioneering and is deemed likely to be highly influential for decades to come. The Rising Pioneer Award will be given to a faculty member who is highly respected by their peers and experts and is gaining momentum in building their national and international reputation in basic science, translational, clinical, educational, or community research. Additional selection criteria may include current leadership, mentorship, teaching, advocacy for women and community engagement.
An award of $5,000 will be given to the awardee to support future research endeavors.
Rebekah Walker, PhD
Associate professor and section chief for research, department of medicine, division of general internal medicine
Associate director for the Center for Advancing Population Science
Dr. Walker’s research focuses on reducing and eliminating health disparities by addressing social determinants of health, with particular emphasis on chronic disease outcomes in low-income populations. She is currently the PI of a Junior Faculty Award from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and a Multiple PI on an National Institute of Health (NIH)/NIMHD R01 focused on addressing food insecurity in African Americans with diabetes. She also serves as a co-investigator on two NIH/NIDDK R01s testing innovative interventions to eliminate disparities in diabetes outcomes, and an NIH/NIDDK R21 investigating social, cultural, and biological determinants of diabetes outcomes in Lebanon. She has authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications, serves as a Deputy Editor for the Journal of General Internal Medicine (JGIM) and has served on study sections for the ADA and NIH.
The Edward J. Lennon, MD Outstanding Woman Postdoctoral Researcher Award is given annually to honor a Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) female, non-binary or genderqueer postdoctoral fellow. Established in memory of former Dean and President of MCW from 1978 through 1990, Edward J. Lennon, MD, this special award continues his legacy. Dr. Lennon was a bench scientist, a physician and a teacher, who during his time at MCW appointed the first woman Department Chair and fostered an environment supportive of women faculty in leadership roles. The Edward J. Lennon, MD Outstanding Woman Postdoctoral Researcher Award will be given to a postdoc who is making exceptional strides in areas such as basic science, translational, clinical, educational, or community research.
An award of $1,000 will be given to the awardee to support future research endeavors.
Barbara Palkovic, MD
Postdoctoral fellow, department of anesthesiology
Dr. Palkovic received her medical degree from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Osijek in Croatia. Next, she completed a residency and passed her board exams in anesthesia. During this time, she developed a strong interest in research, and came to the US to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship in an area of basic science that is translatable to clinical work. Her research investigates the role of the brainstem in opioid induced respiratory depression, and she is in the process of putting together her dissertation that will allow her to obtain the PhD degree at the University of Osijek. She is also very interested in education and has served as a teaching assistant for medical students at the Faculty of Medicine and later as a teaching assistant in the anesthesia residency program in Croatia. Shortly after starting her postdoctoral research fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, she joined the Postdoctoral Advisory Committee, which allows her to engage in the MCW scientific community and to advocate for postdocs in the MCW family, first as a chair of onboarding committee and later as co-chair of mentoring committee. Dr. Palkovic is honored to be recognized for this work and hopes to continue to contribute to the MCW research achievements and the postdoctoral fellowship program.
The Women in Science Student Awards are given annually to honor three Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) female, non-binary or genderqueer students. The Women in Science Student Awards will be given to MCW students who are already making impressive strides at the beginning of their careers, to assist them in their journeys of becoming outstanding women in science.
An award of $500 will be given to an awardee from each of the three MCW Schools: Graduate, Medical and Pharmacy to support their careers as women in science.
Laura Danner is a third-year graduate student in the department of biochemistry in the Olivier-Van Stichelen lab. Living with chronic illness, she experienced firsthand the transformative effects of a whole foods-based diet on her health. Laura returned to university after spending time recovering and completed her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences at UW-Milwaukee. Wanting to better understand nutritional biochemistry and to have a wide-ranging impact on how physicians and dietitians advise their patients, she joined the Medical College of Wisconsin as a graduate student in 2019. Laura is excited to continue her research and to be a part of queer, female representation in STEM.
Shay is a PY2 pharmacy student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from UW-Madison in 2020. She plans on going into pediatric pharmacy after school. Shay is so thankful to everyone who has supported her through school, mainly her mom, and for the School of Pharmacy for giving me the opportunity to help my community during the pandemic.
While completing her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Colorado - Boulder, Meg’s enthusiasm for neuroscience research was sparked by her work with Dr. Christopher A. Lowry, Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Lab, who encouraged her to chase her interests: the interplay of genetics and environment, and how this impacts the neurophysiology underlying stress-related disorders. Driven by intrigue, lived experience of trauma, and a secondary major in Psychology & Neuroscience, Meg unknowingly started to develop an expertise in the field. When she matriculated to the Medical College of Wisconsin, Central Wisconsin campus, Meg shifted her focus to clinical research. Under the valuable mentorship of Dr. Gwendolyn M. Hoben, she is working to understand the neurophysiology of chronic pain, patient impact, and the roles of surgical intervention. During medical school, Meg was offered an opportunity to give purpose to the knowledge she acquired in neurophysiology by helping lead Seeking Peer Outreach (SPO*), an innovative program integrating peer-support and suicide prevention in a tiered framework, elevated to the caliber of medical education. While her studies aim to discover the untold story about the elusive impact of stress on our physiologic well-being, her work with SPO* simultaneously works towards a solution through human connection. She hopes SPO* can strengthen connections by optimizing the accessibility of peer-support networks to transform the culture at our institution for the future lives of healthcare workers and those in medical education. Undoubtedly, these opportunities would not have been possible without the phenomenal support and mentorship she has received at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and she hopes to extend gratitude to all of those who have partaken in her endeavors.
The first annual Mary Jane Shanks Trailblazer Award will be given to honor a Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) female, non-binary or genderqueer student. Ms. Mary Jane Shanks was a talented and respected teacher in Rockford, Illinois. This fulfilling career was due to her ability to attend college and complete her degree. Ms. Shanks was a non-traditional college student – a single mother who had three children to care for during her education. The family of Ms. Shanks has established this memorial scholarship to recognize the strengths of non-traditional students who thrive despite barriers to success. Frequently, these barriers can result in fewer traditional measures of success (high grades, number of publications and presentations, etc.), but greater resiliency and determination, which are critical qualities for successful researchers and physicians. It is their hope that this award can provide both financial relief and well-deserved recognition to the other “Mary Janes” out there who stand to make great contributions to their community and to the world in their future career.
An award of $500 will be given to an awardee currently enrolled at MCW as a full-time student in any degree granting program.
Kerchia Asia Lee
Kerchia Asia Lee is a current fourth year student pharmacist attending the Medical College of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy. Her intended goals for the future are to complete a PGY1 and PGY2 with an ambulatory care focus. During her years in the program, Kerchia has had the opportunity to act as the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (ASHP) Chapter President for the 2020-2021 school year and has also conducted research on interests of hers regarding the Hmong community. In her free time, Kerchia enjoys photography, watching movies at home, and spending time with her family, especially with her husband and little boy. Currently, Kerchia is working on research with Dr. Kajua Lor, PharmD, BCACP, and her classmate, Celena Ho, PharmD Candidate 2022 on postpartum care in the Hmong community.
Thank You for Your Support
The Women in Science lecture series provides an opportunity to showcase the outstanding efforts of female, non-binary or genderqueer physicians and scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented, but it did not stop us. We want to say “thank you” to our colleagues, friends, family, sponsors and donors for their support.
Office of Institutional Advancement