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The Thomas Jefferson Fund Supporting Women-led Projects in STEM

Many of the recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Fund are women with promising futures in their field, and the program is committed to supporting women researchers, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), where women are traditionally underrepresented. Since its creation in 2017, the Thomas Jefferson Fund has supported 12 women-led projects and 24 projects implemented by one female and one male principal investigator.

Promising Career Paths of Female Scientists Researching Kidney Disease

Jessica Harding, Assistant Professor at Emory University and Sahar Bayat, Assistant Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Santé Publique (French School of Public Health) are two recipients of the Thomas Jefferson Fund, and both have promising research careers in the field of Public Health.

“I enjoy the process of scientific enquiry that advances knowledge to the benefit of human life,” says Harding, when asked about what inspired her scientific career. Harding received her doctorate in Epidemiology from Monash University in Australia, and afterwards she moved to the United States to complete a fellowship at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, where she studied diabetes and kidney disease. Since starting Emory University in 2019, Harding has been researching healthcare quality and outcomes research for kidney disease and diabetes, and she says that she is looking forward to her career as an independent researcher.

Bayat began her career at the University of Nancy in France, where she received her PhD in Public Health and Epidemiology. Bayat has researched extensively on kidney disease, and she recently published papers about the accessibility of kidney transplants in France and on care-trajectories of patients with kidney disease. Together, Harding and Bayat are collaborating on a project to compare pre-dialysis care trajectories of chronic kidney disease between the United States and France.

Research Collaboration on Complex Algorithms

Another pair of researchers is Christelle Vincent, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont and Sorina Ionica, Associate Professor at the University of Picardy Jules Verne. They are conducting Mathematics research on the construction of genus 3 cm curves. These curves are complex multiplication algorithms and have important implications for cryptography. These algorithms could help create encryption keys that are more compact and efficient, which will help increase the security of mobile networks and smart cards.

Vincent holds a doctorate in Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she is a specialist in algebraic and analytic number theory. She is also receiving funding from the National Science Foundation for this project.

Ionica’s research is focused on computational number theory and developing algorithmic tools for cryptography, and her research is also being supported by the MIS laboratory at the University of Picardy. Ionica received a PhD in computer science from the University of Versailles.

Women-led Chemistry Research on Thermoelectric Energy

Finally, Luat Vuong, Assistant Professor at the University of California-Riverside, and Veronika Zinovyeva, Assistant Professor at the University of Paris Saclay, are investigating complex liquids called nanofluids and ionic liquids. Vuong has a doctorate in Applied Physics from Cornell University, and her research has mainly focused on the dynamics of complex liquid systems. Her research is currently being funded by the National Science Foundation to further study nanoparticles in liquids. Zinovyeva has a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Burgundy, and she is a specialist in electrochemistry and materials chemistry.

“I've always enjoyed learning and exploring, and I followed my passion for science. Fortunately, my family, teachers and scientific supervisors have always supported me in this way,” says Zinovyeva on her decision to pursue a career in science. Zinovyeva has co-authored 14 papers, and her current research interests are electrochemistry in ionic liquids, metal electrodeposition, and spectral properties of lanthanide compounds.

For their joint research project, Vuong and Zinovyeva are researching whether nanofluids and ionic liquids can be used to create renewable thermoelectric (electricity generated from heat) energy. Thermoelectric energy has traditionally been made with solid materials, but there could be important advantages in using complex liquids to create thermoelectric energy: it is more efficient, and there is a lower cost of production and recycling. Vuong and Zinovyeva’s research could be valuable in creating new forms of efficient, renewable energy, which is vital in the fight against climate change.

Research Supported by the Thomas Jefferson Fund

All of these impressive STEM projects led by women are supported by the Thomas Jefferson Fund. In an increasingly globalized world, collaboration between French-American researchers is critical to identifying solutions to pressing challenges that transcend national and cultural boundaries. The Thomas Jefferson Fund aims to encourage and support research between French and American scholars, and to foster forward-thinking collaborative research.