Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Feeling WiSE? That's because it's Wednesday! Today's woman scientist is Lydia Villa-Komaroff - particularly exciting because she shares a birthday with WSBS student and WiSE co-founder Jackie G. (August 7 - don't forget). Lydia knew at age 9 that she was destined to become a scientist. She hoped to follow in the footsteps of her uncle, a chemist, so she started a degree in chemistry at the University of Washington. After Lydia’s advisor told her that “women do not belong in chemistry”, she switched to biology, then after two years in Seattle, she finished her degree at Goucher College (the alma mater of last week’s WiSE woman, Hattie Alexander). Lydia did a Ph.D. at MIT with Harvey Lodish and Nobel Laureate and URP alumnus David Baltimore. Lydia was the third Mexican-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in the sciences. She went on to do post-doctoral research on recombinant DNA at Harvard. But in 1976, Lydia moved her work to CSHL because of a ban on studying recombinant DNA in Cambridge. When the ban was lifted, she returned to Harvard and cloned the insulin gene and showed that bacteria could synthesize mammalian insulin, a discovery that revolutionized biotech. Lydia held faculty positions at UMass medical school and Harvard medical school, and served as vice president of research at Northwestern and COO of the Whitehead. Lydia is currently CSO of Cytonome/ST.
Listen to Lydia talk about defying expectations: