Newswise — Rutgers University hosted one of the first Young Women in Bio (YWIB) events in New Jersey Oct. 20 at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Approximately 270 high school women from 18 schools throughout New Jersey attended the event to learn about career options for women in biomedical sciences. Janet Alder, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience and cell biology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and assistant dean for graduate academic and student affairs at School of Graduate Studies, Rutgers University, organized and executed the event, which was the largest YWIB event ever held in the United States or Canada. Young Women in Bio is a part of the national Women in Bio organization, designed to introduce school girls to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Dr. Alder, who is a mother to two teen-aged daughters, realized that high school students are not exposed to the wide range of career paths in science and medicine, which motivated her to plan a large event in New Jersey. The goal was to introduce young women to science careers and the steps to take to pursue those careers, while giving them hands-on experience and opportunities to meet women in different areas of science. “We wanted students to understand that if you want to help people, you can do that in many careers. While physicians treat patients, researchers cure diseases.  People don’t realize that there are vast career options with a degree in science. Science writing, public policy, patent law, and business consulting are just a few of the paths open to budding scientists,” says Dr. Alder.

During the event, high school students listened to a panel of six women in diverse areas of science, who shared their experiences and answered questions about their careers. Panelists included Tanaya Bhowmick, MD, assistant professor of medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Debbie McCluskey, RN, nurse manager, Rutgers Clinical Research Center; Estela Jacinto, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Valerie Fitzhugh, MD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, New Jersey Medical School; Karen Akinsanya, PhD, clinical pharmacology, discovery research and business development, Merck & Co Inc.; and Ina Nikolaeva, PhD, senior medical writer, ClinicalThinking.


Broader than only Rutgers, Liberty Science Center, Student2Science, Curious Science Writers, WestchesterBiotechProject and the Association for Women in Science-Central Jersey participated in hands-on learning experiences for the students and organizing the event. Demonstrations included forensic anthropologists in charge of discovering the identity of bones found at a crime scene and extracting DNA from strawberries. The high school students also had the opportunity to speak at lunch with current MD and PhD students, who shared what it is like to be a woman in STEM at Rutgers.

The first YWIB event was hugely successful and impactful for future generations of women in STEM, with the maximum number of schools participating. “Women are still underrepresented in science. Giving young women attainable options they can achieve, with role models who show them how to get there is important for their future.” says Dr. Alder, who hopes to host this event at Rutgers again in the future.

About Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. Part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 20 basic science and clinical departments, and hosts centers and institutes including The Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, and the Women’s Health Institute. The medical school has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as among the top 100 medical schools in the nation for research and primary care.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility and the medical school’s principal affiliate, comprise one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers. Clinical services are provided by more than 500 faculty physicians in 200+ specialties and subspecialties as part of Rutgers Health, the clinical arm of Rutgers University. Rutgers Health is the most comprehensive academic health care provider in New Jersey, offering a breadth of accessible clinical care throughout the state supported by the latest in medical research and education.

Robert Wood Johnson Medical School maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels on its campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. With more than 5,500 alumni since the start of its first class in 1996, the medical school has expanded its comprehensive programming and educational opportunities and is at the forefront of innovative curriculum development and a visionary admissions program. To learn more about Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, visit