Women in STEM Spotlight

March is Women’s History Month, what better way to celebrate than honoring women who have made significant contributions in history? Today, we are spotlighting an award-winning inventor, biophysicist and respected innovator in solar energy and a scientist turned politician.

Mária Telkes­– Maria was an award-winning inventor, biophysicist and respected innovator in solar energy. She was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1900 where she attended the University of Budapest earning a B.A and Ph.D in physical chemistry. Telkes later attended MIT where her focus was the practical uses and applications of solar energy. During World War II Telkes developed a solar distillation device that was included in emergency medical kits that helped save the lives of downed airmen and torpedoed soldiers. She also contributed to Solar One, a solar based home while working at the University of Delaware. Over the course of her career Telkes received many honors including the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award and the Charles Greely Abbot Award from the International Solar Energy Society. In 2012 she was post-humously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her invention of Solar Thermal Storage Systems.

Dixy Lee Ray– Before becoming the first woman to be appointed to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Dixy Lee (born Marguerite Ray) started her career in science by earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology from Mills College in Oakland California. She later enrolled at Stanford University where she worked toward earning her doctorate in zoology. Following her graduation in 1945 she joined the faculty at the University of Washington where she stayed for 27 years. Ray moved to Washington D.C in August 1972 after being hand selected by President Richard Nixon to serve on the AEC. After the division of the AEC Ray became part of the Department of State and served as assistant secretary in charge of the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She resigned from her position in order to protest the lack of support from the Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and returned to her home state. In 1977 she was elected governor of Washington.