Celebrating Women at Berkeley Physics

Friday, April 3, 2020

October 3, 2020, marks the 150th anniversary of the UC Regents’ unanimous approval of a resolution by Regent Samuel F. Butterworth: “That young ladies be admitted into the University on equal terms in all respects with young men.” We've come a long way since then. In celebration of this important anniversary, Berkeley Physics is highlighting 11 of the many outstanding women who are part of what makes Berkeley one of the leading universities worldwide. 


In alphabetical order:


Catherine Bordel

Catherine Bordel joined the Berkeley Physics Department as a Physics Lecturer in 2009 after 11 years as an Associate Professor at the University of Rouen (France). Her research focusses on the interplay between structural order and magnetic properties in thin films and multilayers. 

”Becoming a researcher and an instructor was a dream come true, but it means I have lived in a male-dominated environment since I was a college student. As a result, one of my top priorities has been to act as a role model for female students and to encourage them to pursue a scientific career.“


Simca Bouma

Graduate student Simca Bouma is a member of the Hellman Lab, an experimental group in condensed matter physics. She fabricates magnetic thin films with glass-like atomic arrangements and characterizes their structural, magnetic, and electronic properties in order to illuminate the role of periodicity (or lack thereof) in fundamental physical phenomena.

Along with fellow graduate student Sam Kohn, Simca organized an annual peer training workshop called Respect is Part of Research (RPR). They created RPR in 2014 to build a culture of constructive department climate social norms among incoming students; the workshop has since evolved to also meet the new campus requirement for in-person sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention training for new grad students, and satellite workshops have formed in half a dozen other STEM departments at UC Berkeley. Sam and Simca's hope for the workshop is to “encourage people to think actively about participating in improving the climate.”


Mary K. Gaillard

In 1981, Mary K. Gaillard became the first woman to join the Berkeley physics faculty. At the same time, she became a faculty senior staff member at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab), serving as head of its Particle Theory Group from 1985-87. Retired since 2009, she is now a professor of the Graduate School at UC Berkeley and a visiting scientist at Berkeley Lab.

Gaillard has earned high regard not only for her scientific accomplishments but also for her courage and perseverance in the face of gender bias and her continuous efforts toward opening up opportunities for women in the sciences.

In 2015, a memoir describing Gaillard's career, A Singularly Unfeminine Profession: One Woman's Journey in Physics, was published by World Scientific. Gaillard says she wrote the book “because I wanted to convey the difficulties I had as a woman in such a male-dominated field. And I wanted to convey the joy of doing physics. I have the good luck that my career spanned the entire period of the standard model from its inception to its verification with the discovery of the Higgs particle. And I had a lot of fun.”

Read more about Mary K. Gaillard and watch a short video about her life and work.


Naomi Ginsberg

Associate Professor Naomi Ginsberg is a chemist and physicist who joined the Berkeley Physics Faculty in 2011. She is currently “focused on visualizing ultrafast energy flow in natural and artificial light-harvesting systems and on combining electron and optical microscopies to facilitate high-resolution studies of living things and molecular interactions in solution”. She is the Berkeley lead of STROBE, a multi-university NSF Science and Technology Center devoted to imaging science, a member of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute at Berkeley, and the recipient of a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering (2011), a DARPA Young Faculty Award (2012), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2015), and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2016) in addition to a series of teaching awards in the physical sciences. In 2017-18 she was a Miller Professor for Basic Research in Science at UC Berkeley and was designated a Kavli Fellow. In 2019 she was the Kroto Lecturer in Chemical Physics at Florida State University. She is the recipient of the 2020 ACS Early-Career Award in Experimental Physical Chemistry.

She is a strong supporter – both conceptually and financially - of the “STEMinist Chronicles”, contributing to the Diversity and Inclusion mission of our Physics and Chemistry Departments. 


Frances Hellman

Professor Frances Hellman's research involves the physics of novel magnetic, semiconducting, and superconducting materials especially in thin-film form, where her recent work on amorphous dielectric materials led to her joining LIGO, the gravitational wave observatory. She joined the Berkeley Physics faculty in 2005 and served as Chair of the Department for 6 years, until 2013. She currently serves as Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at UC Berkeley and has recently been elected as President of the American Physical Society. In addition to her work in the Physics Department, she has an appointment in the UCB Materials Science and Engineering Dept. as well as at LBNL in the Materials Sciences Division.

She has been on a large number of national and local science boards, including the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, the APS Panel on Public Policy, the Elementary Institute of Science (in San Diego), COSMOS, a statewide math and science summer program for high school students, and as visiting scientist at the SF Exploratorium.

"I genuinely believe that science is better when a diverse group of people comes together to make discoveries. Riding the coattails of Mary K. Gaillard and Marjorie Shapiro, Mina Aganagic, and Alessandra Lanzara, I am proud to be just the fifth woman in the department's faculty. I am even prouder to have helped the department triple its women faculty since then and to have fostered amazing female physicists in my own lab!"


Alessandra Lanzara

Alessandra Lanzara is the Charles Kittel Professor in Physics and a Senior Faculty Scientist at the Materials Sciences Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2002. She is a member of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute at Berkeley and the Director of the Center for Sustainable Innovation. She was elected Chair of the American Physical Society, Far West Section in 2018, and is now the Acting Chair since 2019.

Lanzara is a condensed matter experimentalist whose work centers on light-driven novel phases of matter and study of cooperative phenomena in quantum materials. She is a strong believer in the needs of a diverse and inclusive scientific community to drive real breakthroughs and innovation in science. She has supported and mentored over the years several women, who have moved on into successful careers both in research and industry. Her commitment to this cause is witnessed by her broad involvement over the years. Examples include chairing the LBNL Materials Sciences Division Equity and Diversity Committee, serving on the Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Work and Family, and on the Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate Committee for more than 3 years. She has been an advisor for the Society for Women in Physics for over 10 years (since her arrival at Berkeley) and is a member of the Diversity and Equity Committee for the Physics Department. She has led one of the chapters for the Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan at LBNL.


Namrata Ramesh

Namrata Ramesh is in her senior year, pursuing a Physics (Honors) degree. Her senior thesis, supervised by Professor Naomi Ginsberg, involves understanding the dynamics of self-assembly of gold nanocrystal superlattices using optical and x-ray scattering techniques. She has been honored as a Rhodes Scholar and will begin her studies at Oxford in the Fall of 2020.

Namrata is also very passionate about diversity in STEM fields and multimedia storytelling and has combined both interests by starting “The STEMinist Chronicles”, an organization that currently uses photo essays to tell the stories of women in STEM.

“Creating The STEMinist Chronicles and engaging in scientific research have both been some of the greatest joys of my life. I hope that, through my work in both spheres, I can show that the only requirement to be a scientist is a deep love for science.” 


Sydney Schreppler

Sydney Schreppler is a (recent) former postdoctoral fellow in physics and a UC Berkeley Ph.D. who in her spare time mentors women majoring in science and served as head coach for the campus’s club women’s lacrosse team. She was awarded one of five 2017 For Women in Science Fellowships by L’Oréal USA. Additionally, she was the founding member of Womxyn in Quantum in 2018, a networking gathering at the annual American Physical Society (APS) meeting. 

A very supportive female chair at Yale and supportive women postdoc and graduate student mentors at Berkeley were “really important to my future as a research scientist,” she said. “I want to emphasize my role as a mentor to younger grad students.”

“I am really happy I am able to bring the (L'Oreal) award to Berkeley because Berkeley has been very good to me during my PhD and my postdoc,” said Schreppler, 29. “There is a reason I stuck around here: I really like the physics department here and I love all the students and staff in the physics department. I am definitely grateful to the campus and the university.”


Marjorie Shapiro

Professor Marjorie Shapiro is an experimental particle physicist whose interests lie in probing the most basic interactions in nature. She is currently a collaborator on two collider experiments: the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) and the Atlas experiment at CERN. Both of these experiments have substantial Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory involvement.

She serves as the Faculty Advisor for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Affairs. She is committed to the teaching mission of our Department both as a mentor to GSIs and teaching undergraduates, from introductory physics classes to more advanced courses in quantum mechanics and particle physics. 

She has led the charge on aligning Physics with campus Data Science Initiatives serving as Chair of that Committee last year. In 2019, she was awarded the Presidential Chair Fellows Curriculum Enrichment Grant Program with the goal of “Enhancing Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Physics Using Data Science Techniques for Data.” The grant allowed the “opportunity to define and articulate undergraduate Discovery Learning and redesign key courses to create sequential intentional learning experiences for your undergraduate students.” This year, she is serving on a campus-wide committee to advise the integration of physics courses with foreign universities via the Education Abroad Program. Prof Shapiro was Chair of the Physics Department from 2004 through 2007.  She was the first woman to serve in that position.

“Berkeley's commitment to diversity and inclusion is central to its scientific vision.  The broader our perspectives and experiences are, the more likely we are to make the out-of-the-box innovations that move us in new and exciting directions.” 


Claudia Trujillo

Claudia Trujillo is the Director of Student Services and the Berkeley Physics International Education Program in the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley. She oversees the graduate and undergraduate programs, curriculum budgeting, planning, and implementation. She has been in Physics for 23 years and has proudly dedicated herself to supporting students’ academic missions and the academic mission of the department by providing trustworthy and genuine leadership that focuses on individualized attention, the development of visions and strategies to support, improve and directly impact academic and personal experiences.

Her mission is to advocate for and to empower the educational and personal growth journey in an unbiased, supportive manner and to contribute to and facilitate the path to an individual’s academic goals and success.

She is the recipient of campus awards recognizing her work in developing key plans and strategies for the department’s Equity and Inclusion Plan, for identifying, planning, developing and launching the Physics Transfer Course (now a permanent part of the department’s teaching curriculum) and also for her leadership in developing, launching and recruiting students for the Berkeley Physics International Education Program (BPIE). She was selected by the UC Office of the President for the UC Women’s Initiative for Professional Development in 2019.


QinQin Yu

QinQin Yu is a fourth-year physics grad student studying microbial evolution. She combines wet lab experiments with statistical mechanics models to understand how microbes evolve in space and time.  She was the People's Choice winner of the 2019 UC Berkeley Grad Slam, a UC campus-wide competitive speaking event. In 2019 she traveled to Washington DC along with 3 other PhD students to meet with congressional offices to advocate for sustained levels of funding for fundamental research. She is a member of the UC Berkeley Science Policy Group and the Society of Women in the Physical Sciences (SWPS).

"I love studying microbial evolution because I get to be a part of multiple scientific communities and learn from different people: statistical physicists, biophysicists, microbiologists, and population geneticists. I learn something new every week, and it's very exciting to make connections between ideas. I believe a lot of creative science can come out of collaboration between people with different backgrounds."