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Kripke Legend Award salutes Nancy Hopkins of MIT

HOUSTON - Nancy Hopkins, Ph.D., noted cancer biologist and prominent advocate of equality for women in science, is the 2012 recipient of the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for Promotion of Women in Cancer Medicine and Cancer Science presented by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Hopkins, a professor of molecular biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will deliver the Kripke lecture, Engineering Equity for Women Faculty in Science and Engineering: The MIT Story, at 4 p.m., March 22 in MD Anderson's Onstead Auditorium.

"Nancy Hopkins is truly a legend," said Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., MD Anderson associate vice president of Women Faculty Programs, which sponsors the award. "At a time when gender equity issues were not discussed in academia, she took the responsibility on her own to shine a light on inequities for women faculty at MIT, resulting in the now famous Hopkins Report.

"Women faculty in academia, including those at MD Anderson, are better positioned to succeed because of her unwavering advocacy. And, our institutions are stronger thanks to her efforts," Travis said. "Walking in Margaret Kripke's footsteps, she's an ideal choice for the Kripke Legend Award. She set the bar high for those of us who follow her lead."

Trailblazer for women in science

Hopkins became widely known as a supporter of equality for women in science when she led MIT's first Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science. The group's report, which was published in 1999, showed marked disparities between opportunities and treatment for male and female faculty members. This led to numerous improvements in the status and number of women faculty at MIT, as well as increased awareness and similar groups on campuses around the nation.

In 2005, Hopkins walked out of a lecture by the president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, when he questioned whether biological differences account for a lower success rate by women in science and math careers.

"I'm profoundly honored to win this award," Hopkins said. "Two things made it special for me. First is my enormous respect for the MD Anderson people involved. Margaret Kripke, and also Liz Travis and her colleagues, are pioneers who opened doors for other women in medicine and science.

"Second is my respect for the institution. I know from my experience working with MIT to advance women in science, that when great institutions such as MD Anderson or MIT bring attention to this issue, their doing so, by itself, overcomes inertia and galvanizes progress. MD Anderson has once again proved itself a leader - in gender equity in addition to its many innovations in cancer research and treatment. I thank MD Anderson for its leadership on behalf of all women in cancer research and medicine."

Major impact on science, equality

Hopkins' research on zebra fish has led to better understanding of the genetic composition of major organs in vertebrates, which may advance treatment for many health conditions, including birth defects and cancer. Her scientific achievements have earned her membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Hopkins was appointed in 2000 as co-chair of MIT's first Council on Faculty Diversity. The committee's work has led to several changes in faculty equality.

"She surely has made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of women in cancer medicine and cancer science, and far beyond those boundaries as well," said Charles Vest, president, National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus at MIT.

"It's difficult to think of any single person whose tireless efforts have been more directly responsible for so many meaningful policy changes at universities across the country that have benefited so many women in science," said Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Contact: Scott Merville
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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Kripke Legend Award salutes Nancy Hopkins of MIT
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