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Featured Women in Science

NYU Female Social Scientist of the Month: Elodie Ghedin

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WINS Profile:

Dr. Elodie Ghedin is a Professor of Biology at New York University. Through the use of genomic tools, she studies how and why pathogens and viruses, mainly influenza, adapt to their hosts. Specifically, Dr. Ghedin enjoys working on the parasite FIlariasis, which develops into elephantiasis. This parasite puts 1/6th of the world population at risk, but is difficult to study as an organism. Dr. Ghedin is particularly interested in the symbiotic relationship that exists between the worm and the bacteria. In a similar vein, Dr. Ghedin gave a talk for the NYU Women in Science Fall Lecture titled, “Tracking Viral Outbreaks and Epidemics with Genomics.” In this talk, she spoke about how new sequence technology provides powerful tools for the surveillance and characterization of emerging viruses as well as the tracking of viral epidemics.

In addition to teaching Principles of Biology and Essentials of Public Health, Dr. Ghedin participates in Womensphere, an organization dedicated to bringing together women in leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Further, the women in her lab organized the first ever Ada Lovelace Day at NYU. Ada Lovelace, who is widely considered to be the first computer programmer, helps provide a face for all women in STEM fields. The day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by sharing their stories.

Dr. Ghedin recalls first becoming interested in science as a young girl, always drawn to her chemistry and geology sets. While she has strong memories of her female math and science teachers, she remembers most vividly wanting to be a grocery store cashier because it looked so cool. She later began her career in academia, where it never really occurred to her that science couldn’t be a profession. She was aligned with female mentors throughout her career that advocated for her success. Dr. Ghedin first felt the pressures of being a woman in science in her professional career as she was moving up in rank. She was due for a promotion, and upon speaking with her supervisor about the topic, was faced with an astounding “who do you think you are” response. This was the first time she realized this company, and many organizations alike, fostered a culture where women were not supposed to ask for the same opportunities as men, and she did not remain at that company for much longer.

For advice, Dr. Ghedin says, “Don’t let yourself be intimidated, ever. And don’t be too set on what you want to do in the future.” This second piece of advice harps on her passion for interdisciplinary work. She now works primarily in bioinformatics, which did not exist when she was a student. Lastly, Dr. Ghedin advises students to “network, network, network,” and to “talk to people, take names, and work your contacts.” For Dr. Ghedin, working with and listening to others is the foundation for success.