BY MARTHA IRVINE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rebecca Allred has fond memories of the lab at the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA). She and her peers spent hours there. They worked into the night for their professor, Elizabeth Har- bron, because they wanted to, blowing off steam
by dancing to the soundtrack of “Mamma Mia” or taking a
break on Fridays to play miniature golf together.
Harbron was not only their mentor but also often a confidante. They shared their frustrations. They celebrated their
successes. Several published their findings with Harbron’s
guidance, a rarity for undergraduates.
“That lab was a refuge between classes. I loved being there,”
says Allred, now a second-year doctoral student in the Yale Uni-
versity chemistry department and one of a new generation of
young women who are helping change the face of the so-called
STEM fields— science, technology, engineering, and math.
A matter of time?
Whatever the answer, it’s hard to argue with her results: her
lab has become a place where young women gain confidence
to match their abilities,
Harbron says. Many, like
Allred, have gone on to
That’s a big deal in
the STEM fields, which
have been slower than
other disciplines to
integrate women at the
highest levels. With two-thirds of all undergraduate degrees and 60% of
master’s degrees now
going to women, many
believe it’s only a matter of time before that
trend influences the
upper echelons of the
PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
from the Council of
Graduate Schools show
that women earned
slightly more than
half of the doctorates
handed out in all disciplines in the United
States in 2009 and 2010.
In the STEM disciplines,
women have been most
successful in medicine
and biology, and least
Rebecca Allred, who is working on a doctorate at Yale University, wasn’t put off by initially being the only
female undergraduate in a chemistry lab at the College of William and Mary.