by Barbara West
May 6, 2005 was a milestone for broads in science and engineering.
That’s the day Susan Hockfield, a noted neuroscientist, was inaugurated
as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s first female president.
Perhaps surprisingly, less has been made of the fact that Dr. Hockfield
is a woman than the fact that she is the first life scientist to lead
MIT. When she was named president, the New York Times noted drolly,
“there was talk that M.I.T. was breaking new ground. What would it
mean, many wondered, if one of the world’s leading citadels of physics,
electrical engineering and other hard sciences were led for the first
time by – a biologist?”
Before coming to MIT, Dr. Hockfield was a professor of neurobiology and
provost of Yale University. Her research focused on the development of
the brain and on glioma, a deadly kind of brain cancer. Under her
leadership, MIT has launched major research initiatives focusing on two
of society’s great challenges: cancer and energy.
Even as she downplayed her gender, Dr. Hockfield was compelled to
respond, shortly after her inauguration, to then-Harvard University
President Lawrence Summers’ suggestion that one reason for the relative
scarcity of women at the upper ranks of science might be an innate
“Marie Curie exploded that myth,” Dr. Hockfield and two other
university presidents, Shirley Tilghman of Princeton and John Hennessy
of Stanford, wrote in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Boston Globe.
But women need “teachers who believe in them,” they went on, and low
expectations of women “can be as destructive as overt discrimination.”
It should be noted that Dr. Hockfield’s arrival at MIT furthered a
shift that started at the Institute in 1999. That’s the year when MIT
issued a report concluding that women there suffered from widespread if
unintentional discrimination, and it pledged to work toward gender
parity. The main force behind that report was MIT biologist Nancy
Hopkins, who literally took a tape measure to her and her female
colleagues’ lab space to show the MIT administration that the women
were being allotted fewer resources than their male counterparts. So,
to toast the woman who jump-started MIT’s new wave of broads, drink one
Lady Hopkins Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Southern Comfort
1/2 oz passion fruit
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
Shake in an iced cocktail shaker & strain into a cocktail glass. Add cherry, orange slice, mint sprig.