Women and Science

Salk Women & Science is an ongoing program that  provides a dynamic and vibrant forum in which community and business leaders and Salk’s women of science have an opportunity to gather as friends, entrepreneurs and researchers to discuss the latest discoveries in science and technology while inspiring more women to embrace scientific research as a focus of personal and philanthropic interest.

Women Faculty at the Salk Institute

Nicola Allen, PhD
Nicola Allen, PhDAssociate Professor
Nicola Allen is a neuroscientist who investigates how the brain normally forms and functions, and how it goes awry in different diseases, such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Most research on the brain focuses on neurons, but Allen takes a unique approach by asking how non-neuronal cells in the brain, in particular a class of glial cell called astrocytes, regulate neuronal function.
Janelle Ayres, PhD
Janelle Ayres, PhDProfessor and Laboratory Head
Janelle Ayres is a professor in the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, laboratory head of the Molecular and Systems Physiology Laboratory, member of the Gene Expression Laboratory and holds the Helen McLoraine Developmental Chair. She is a molecular and systems physiologist who uses evolutionary theory and microbes to understand how all our physiological systems and our brain interact with each other to promote optimal health.
Margarita Behrens, PhD
Margarita Behrens, PhDResearch Professor
Margarita Behrens is a research professor in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. She is a neuroscientist who studies how the environment affects the molecular signatures that define brain cells during development and adulthood to help determine why some individuals develop a neurodevelopmental disorder while others do not.
Joanne Chory, PhD
Joanne Chory, PhDProfessor and Director
Joanne Chory is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory, founding director of the Harnessing Plants Initiative, and Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology. Chory is a world leader in the study of plant responses to changes in their environment, including climate change. She has pioneered the use of molecular genetics to study how plants alter their size, shape and form to optimize growth and photosynthesis for particular environments.
Dannielle Engle, PhD
Dannielle Engle, PhDAssistant Professor
Dannielle Engle is assistant professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory and a member of the Salk Cancer Center faculty. She seeks to identify biomarkers and therapeutic targets that will allow for earlier diagnoses and more effective treatments. The research in the Engle lab focuses on the intersection between inflammation and cancer in the pancreas, building upon Engle’s discovery that the carbohydrate biomarker, CA19-9, causes pancreatitis and accelerates tumorigenesis using genetically engineered mouse models. In addition, Engle’s lab is also testing the therapeutic efficacy of CA19-9 targeted therapy for the treatment and interception of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.
Diana Hargreaves, PhD
Diana Hargreaves, PhDAssociate Professor
Diana Hargreaves is associate professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory and the Richard Heyman and Anne Daigle Endowed Developmental Chair. She is a molecular biologist who studies a particular epigenetic regulator, the BAF complex, which uses energy to unpack and unwind DNA from structural proteins to alter DNA accessibility and in turn, gene transcription. Her group has identified novel BAF complex variants and new roles for the BAF complex in cancer, inflammation, and pluripotency.
Susan Kaech, PhD
Susan Kaech, PhDProfessor and Director
Susan Kaech is professor and director of the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis and NOMIS Chair. She is an immunobiologist who aims to understand how memory T cells are produced during infection and vaccination, how they function, and why they can fail to induce long-term immunity during immunization. In particular, she seeks to learn how T cell behavior is suppressed by tumors, in order to create better therapies for cancer using the body’s own immune system—an innovative and rapidly moving field called cancer immunotherapy.
Agnieszka Kendrick, PhD
Agnieszka Kendrick, PhDAssistant Professor
Agnieszka Kendrick is an assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. She is a biochemist that studies the molecular motors cells use to transport necessities and function. Her work sheds light on the dysfunction of these motors in disease, like cancer and numerous neurological disorders.
Julie Law, PhD
Julie Law, PhDAssociate Professor
Julie Law is associate professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory and the Hearst Foundation Developmental Chair. She is a plant biologist who studies the mechanisms by which epigenetic modifications are translated into stable expression states—a poorly understood process critical for proper gene regulation, imprinting, genome integrity, and development.
Pamela Maher, PhD
Pamela Maher, PhDResearch Professor
Pamela Maher is research professor and the head of the Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory. Maher studies the intersection between aging and neurodegenerative diseases. As part of this work, she screens for compounds that alter processes associated with aging and thereby have the potential to slow or stop the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on Alzheimer’s. Her novel approach uses compounds derived from natural products, such as strawberries and turmeric, in order to treat cellular aging and memory loss.
Lena Mueller, PhD
Lena Mueller, PhDAssistant Professor
Lena Mueller is an assistant professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. She is a plant biologist who studies the symbiotic relationship between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Her research reveals the basis for healthy plant symbiosis and can be applied to engineer crops that take up nutrients more efficiently, are more resilient to environmental stresses, and hold more carbon underground in their roots.
Clodagh O’Shea, PhD
Clodagh O’Shea, PhDProfessor
Clodagh O’Shea is professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, Wicklow Chair, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute faculty scholar. She works to identify the critical molecular drivers of disease and to translate this knowledge into more effective therapies. Her research integrates cancer biology, virology, structural biology, microscopy, synthetic biology, and translational research. She is combining this knowledge and her creation of new genome assembly technologies to design synthetic viral vectors, vaccines, and therapies that target cancer and inflammation.
Deepshika Ramanan, PhD
Deepshika Ramanan, PhDAssistant Professor
Deepshika Ramanan is an assistant professor in the NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis. She is an immunologist that studies the biology of maternal-offspring relationships, like how maternal microbiota, diet, and environment can shape a newborn’s immune development, and influence their long-term immune health across generations.
Tatyana Sharpee, PhD
Tatyana Sharpee, PhDProfessor
Tatyana Sharpee is professor in the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory and Integrative Biology Laboratory and the Edwin K. Hunter Chair. She studies fundamental principles of how the brain processes information. Sharpee is interested in how sensory processing in the brain is shaped by the animal’s need to create parsimonious representations of events in the outside world, and how these representations are altered in brain diseases.
Christina Towers, PhD
Christina Towers, PhDAssistant Professor
Christina Towers is assistant professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory. She is a cancer cell biologist using a combination of DNA-editing techniques, light-based genetic manipulation (optogenetics), three-dimensional miniature organs (“organoids”), and detailed imaging to uncover how cancer cells recycle both their own nutrients and the power-generating structures called mitochondria in order to survive. Her goal is to understand the fundamental cancer cell biology that drives cancer cell survival to develop targeted cancer therapies that block cancer cell recycling pathways and kill the cancer cells.
Kay Tye, PhD
Kay Tye, PhDProfessor
Kay Tye is a professor in the Systems Neurobiology Laboratory and the Wylie Vale Chair. She seeks to understand the neural-circuit basis of emotion that leads to motivated behaviors such as social interaction, reward-seeking, and avoidance.

2023 Salk Women & Science Research Award Recipients

The Women & Science Research Awards provide crucial support to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to pursue high-risk, high-reward research in stages too early to attract traditional funding. The awards are targeted towards supporting future scientific leaders who will also actively foster the increased participation of women and girls in science.

Hoda Ahmed
Megan Anderson
Morgan Black
Morgan Black
Rebecca “Becky” Chinn
Sarah Fernandes

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