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A Short History and Long Future for Women in Science at CRS

Members of the Women in Science executive board met in December to plan 2022 activities. From top to bottom, left to right: Maria Jose Alonso, Andrea Joseph, Sujuan Ba, Ruth Schmid, Sara Cordeiro, Renata F. V. Lopez, Nidhi Raval, Danchen Gao, and Ana Cadete.

As Professor Maria Jose Alonso rose through her career, she was often paving the way for women in science. “For the majority of the responsibilities I have had, I have been surrounded by men,” she recalls. She completed her PhD at the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) under Professor Jose Vila-Jato and two postdoctoral positions under Professor Patrick Couvreur and Professor Robert Langer. She then returned to USC and, in 1988, became the first woman in her department to hold a permanent position. A decade later, she was the first woman in her department promoted to full professor. She served her university as the Vice-rector for Research and Innovation from 2006-2010, being the first woman to do so. As she was breaking barriers for women at her institution, she also became a leader within CRS to support the future of women in science.

At CRS, women have been included at the leadership level for a relatively long time. CRS elected its first woman president, Lynda Sanders, in 1988– a decade ahead of its peer societies including the Society for Biomaterials and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. In the last 15 years, just over half of CRS presidents have been women. Maria Jose herself served as president from 2018-2019, and this year, she is the Chair of the Women in Science group. The idea for a Women in Science group came from then-President Diane Burgess in 2009, supported by other prominent women including Begoña Carreño and Ruth Schmid, who wanted to increase the visibility of women in the delivery science and technologies field. In 2011, the Women in Science Award was established to recognize outstanding contributions to science and technology by female scientists. With a vision and an award to disburse, the small group of senior women in CRS began meeting regularly.

The group grew slowly each year as the most recent WIS awardee was invited to join. Each year, they would select a new award winner and organize an event at the Annual Meeting for the awardee. These events were a huge success. Awardees spoke about their career trajectory alongside their personal life, and the following cocktail hour was always lively with discussion. Young women in particular found the event informational and inspiring. When Maria Jose took on the Chair position, she knew she wanted to restructure the WIS group to include women at all career stages.

Aligned with her vision, she established a new WIS executive board with representatives from diverse backgrounds. Yvonne Perrie (Vice Chair) and Ruth Schmid (ED&I Lead) bring a wealth of experience as CRS Past Presidents and established scientists in academia and industry, respectively. Maria de la Fuente (Focus Group Lead) has years of experience in translational research and biotech start-ups, in addition to currently serving as the Chair of the Nanomedicine and Nanoscale Delivery Focus Group. Renata Lopez (Local Chapters Lead) is an Associate Professor at the University of Sao Paulo and currently Chair of the Brazilian Local Chapter. On the early career side, Ana Cadete (Training Lead) joined Moderna in 2017 and is now a Senior Scientist; Sara Cordeiro (E-Media Lead) recently became a Senior Lecturer at De Montfort University; Andrea Joseph (Secretary/Treasurer) is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania; and Nidhi Raval (Young Scientist Committee Lead) is a Regulatory Affairs officer at IQVIA. In addition to these executive board members, the WIS group is advised by honorary board members– past Presidents and WIS awardees. A full list of these members and their biographies is available here:

With this team, Maria Jose is planning to expand the range of WIS activities beyond anything done in the past. The group will launch a series of professional development workshops, such as navigating difficult conversations, managing time effectively, and creating work-life harmony. To increase the visibility of female scientists from diverse countries, the group will coordinate with CRS Local Chapters and feature outstanding women on social media and the CRS website. Additionally, the group plans to work with Focus Groups, Young Scientist Committee, and CRS Equity, Diversity & Inclusion committee to improve current initiatives and develop new ones. All women in CRS are invited to attend and participate in WIS programs. To join the group, log into the CRS portal ( and click “Join Group” under “Women in Science”.

Although Maria Jose was never scientifically mentored by women, she emphasized how important it was to have the support of her family throughout her career. “[They made me feel that] I could do as much as a man could do. I never felt that this is not the kind of job for a woman.” Her family’s support was essential as she faced all-too-familiar feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt when challenges arose. As she looks forward, she envisions WIS providing a similar support for all women in CRS. Across career levels and trajectories, she hopes WIS will provide women with opportunities to be part of a team, develop a broad vision of their careers and the skills to get there, and to connect globally with others like them— opportunities which will prepare women to be leaders within CRS and beyond.

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