By Rita Patel
Chien-Shiung Wu is the last of my three-part series for Women’s History Month. Born in China in the early 1900s, Chien-Shiung was blessed with a family that always encouraged her to pursue her educational aspirations. After immigrating to the United States during the Great Depression she successfully received a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Like Maria, Chien-Shiung was then recruited to join efforts in the Manhattan Project, even though she had no idea what the project is about.
Chien-Shiung was so well-versed in the field that although her interviewers had not talked about the details of the project she would be joining, they had left equations they were working through on the blackboards in the room. In a mere two days, Chien-Shiung had used her expert-physics skills to determine what the secret project was about and agreed to join.
Chien-Shiung was later contacted about issues with start-up and shutdown at Hanford. In one of the only instances of a Ph.D. thesis being useful, Chien-Shiung’s work on fission product Xenon-135 proved to be the same problem that was occurring at Hanford. She hadn’t even published her paper on the work.
Cecelia, Maria, and Chien-Shiung are just a few of the plethora of women who continue to defy the odds and push the boundaries of modern science. Perseverance, commitment, and honest effort will always reap rewards. Just make sure you’re using the scientific method.
What female scientist do you remember during Women’s History Month? Leave me a message about your favorite female scientist.
Rita Patel is a double-graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with bachelor and master of science degrees in Materials Science Engineering, as well as a certificate in Nuclear Engineering. She has been an ANS national member since 2011 and currently works in Washington, D.C. You can experience her witticisms first hand on Twitter via @RitaTherPita.