Huda Yaha Zoghbi

If you watched the Breakthrough Prize awards ceremony last weekend, you might have noticed a striking gender imbalance. Of the 12 physicists, mathematicians, and life scientists honored by Silicon Valley’s tech elite with multimillion dollar prizes in a star-studded gala, only 1 was female. This week’s WiSE Wednesday honoree, Huda Yaha Zoghbi, MD, a professor of pediatrics, genetics, and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, discovered the genetic causes of two devastating neurological diseases, spinocerebellar ataxia and Rett syndrome. By diving deeper into the fundamental biology at the roots of these diseases, she has helped advance our understanding of how both healthy and diseased brains operate. These findings have the potential to lead to treatments for currently incurable conditions. Huda’s path to the red carpet has been far from easy - born in Lebanon in 1955, her medical education there was interrupted by war. After her brother was injured by shrapnel, she emigrated to the United States to finish her training. Despite hardships, her strong desire to help patients propelled her through the rough times. While Huda was the only women honored with the “big prize,” there were hopeful signs for increasing gender equality. Both winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge were female – Antonella Masini from Peru and Deanna See from Singapore. Follow WiSE in the coming weeks for more information about these rising women superscientists!