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Women in STEM - Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu is known as both the "First Lady of Physics" and the "Queen of Nuclear Research."

Born in a small town near Shanghai, Chien-Shiung’s parents encouraged her to get an education, which was pretty much unheard of for girls at the time. Chien-Shiung ended up getting her Bachelor’s degree in Physics and was again encouraged to pursue higher education. This time it was to obtain her PhD in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley. She obtained that in 1940 and married another physicist, Luke Yuan, in 1942.

Shortly after they were married, Chien-Shiung and Luke moved to the east coast, where Chien-Shiung became the first female professor of physics at Princeton University. Around that same time, she joined the infamous “Manhattan Project” at Columbia University, where she focused on radiation detectors. Her work on the theory of beta decay in nuclear energy led to two other physicists receiving the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize, but Wu’s work was never acknowledged.

In the field of nuclear energy, Chien-Shiung’s work spoke for itself. The Director of CERN said, “...if the experiment was done by Wu, it must be correct.” People even avoided conducting research in her areas of expertise because they knew that she could and wold always do better.

In 1975, Chien-Shiung became the first female to win the Medal for Science in Physics. In her later life, she became an outspoken advocate for teaching STEM to all students, regardless of gender or barrier they may be facing.

If you’d like to learn more about Chien-Shiung, please check out her Wikipedia Page:

And you can also check out this bio video of Chien-Shiung from Brown College on YouTube:

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