Notable Women in Science: A Few Modern Biochemists

Three scientists went where life took them.
Written by Adrienne Roehrich, Chemistry Editor

The three scientists presented in this post had upheavals and moves that were not necessarily in their plans. But they made the most of the circumstances, whether they have now retired, work in their field, or moved onto a different profession.


Ines Mandl is a leader in research on enzymes and elastic tissue. Dr. Mandl received many awards in a generation where women were often left out of award recipients.  She received her chemistry degree from the National University of Ireland in 1944, and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1947 and 1949, respectively. She is the first woman to receive a doctorate from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

Born in 1917 in Austria to Russian-Jewish parents, political upheaval in Europe led to her family’s emigration to England, then Ireland, then the United States. At the age of 19, she married Hans Alexander Mandl. While working on her degrees, she worked at the Department of Interchemical Corporation and Chemistry at New York University.

For the next four decades, she worked on biochemical problems from a chemistry perspective. Some of her work advanced pulmonary emphysema. It took from 1949 until 1976 for her to go from a research associate to full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Some of the awards she received are a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1971, the Carl Neuberg Medal from the American Society of European Chemists and Pharmacists in 1977, and the Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society in 1982. She retired in 1986.

Susan S. Taylor stands out in her field for multiple reasons. Her original plans for study was to go into medicine. However, following her husband’s career, changed her plans. She received her B.A. in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1964 and her Ph.D. in physiological chemistry from The Johns Hopkins University in 1968. She ended up in postdoctoral positions Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, MA and University of California, San Diego. After a year there, she became a professor in 1972 and is still there.

Dr. Taylor researches the structures of enzymes, and solved the structure of the first protein kinase in 1991, which continues to the be the template for the entire protein family. Some awards she has received are the Garvan Medal in 2001, the Vanderbilt Prize in Vanderbilt Prize in Biomedical Sciences in 2009, and the FASEB Excellence in Science Award in 2010.

By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nitza Margarita Cintron always dreamed of being a scientist. She was born in Puerto Rico and traveled with her military family, but returned to Puerto Rico when she was in high school. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico in 1972, her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in biochemistry and molecular biology in 1978, and an M.D. from the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1991. She applied to the astronaut corp with NASA, but the physical limitation of poor eyesight kept her from selection. However, she was offered a scientist position with NASA in 1978. She has continued with work with NASA since and has been promoted to higher and more responsible positions, reaching the position Chief of NASA’s (JSC) Space Medicine and Health Care Systems Office in 2004. She is currently an Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine and Associate Medical Director, Harborside Medical Group in Galveston, TX.

Among her honors and awards, she was inducted into the Hispanic Engineer’s National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) Hall of Fame.


Awards Mentioned:

Distinguished Alumnus Award from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn

This award honors an alumnus/alumna who has attained outstanding leadership and accomplishments in the fields of engineering or technology, or has demonstrated notable contributions to the world of science through invention, innovation and entrepreneurship (i2e).

Carl Neuberg Medal from the American Society of European Chemists and Pharmacists

Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society

To recognize distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists. A nominee must be a citizen of the United States and have performed distinguished service to chemistry. The award will be granted regardless of race, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, presence of disabilities, and educational background.

FASEB Excellence in Science Award

The FASEB Excellence in Science Award is given in recognition of outstanding achievement by women in biological science.  Recipients are women whose career achievements have contributed significantly to further our understanding of a particular discipline by excellence in research.

Hispanic Engineer’s National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) Hall of Fame

The mission of the HENAAC Hall of Fame (HHF) is to capture the extraordinary achievements of its inductees in an educational medium that will enlighten a nation, honor the Hispanic community, and contribute to the advancement and betterment of society by inspiring future generations of engineers and scientists.


Front page image is courtesy of “Biokeemia labori laud” by Thctamm – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons