National Academy of Sciences Honors Nancy Hopkins for Lifetime Contributions to Women’s Representation in STEM

Nancy Hopkins, the Amgen Professor of Biology Emerita at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has received the 2024 Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences for her leadership in advancing women’s representation in STEM.

Dr. Hopkins’s award recognizes her role in leading the 1999 report, “A Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science,” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While conducting cancer biology research in the 1980s and 1990s, Dr. Hopkins realized she was given significantly less lab space compared to her male peers. She discussed her findings with other women faculty members and discovered they had experienced similar gender biases in their careers.

The group of women faculty, led by Dr. Hopkins, documented their experiences and shared them with university leadership. Their report spurred the institution to conduct comprehensive investigations into the status of women faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which ultimately found women educators often had smaller wages and labs than their male counterparts. At the time of their report, only 15 out of the 209 tenured professors in the institute’s School of Science were women.

The investigations led by Dr. Hopkins and her peers gained national attention, making her a well-known advocate for women’s representation in STEM. She went on to give hundreds of talks both in the United States and abroad about women in science, and won multiple awards for her contributions to the field. In 2019, she co-founded the Boston Biotech Working Group at the Massachusetts of Technology which aims to increase women’s representation as founders and board members of biotech companies in Massachusetts. The program is now known as the Faculty Founder Initiative.

“The Public Welfare Medal has been awarded who have helped define our Institute and scientists who have shaped modern science on the national stage,” says Susan Hockfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology president emerita. “It is more than fitting for Nancy to join their ranks, and — importantly — celebrates her critical role in increasing the participation of women in science and engineering as a significant national achievement.”

Dr. Hopkins received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. from the department of molecular biology and biochemistry at Harvard University.

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