Asian women scientists have played a historic role in the development and evolution of STEM across the region. Join us in celebrating Women’s History Month, as we spotlight the influential personalities blazing the path of new innovation with their impactful scientific work in APAC. 

Asian women scientists and innovators have taken on great challenges to break the biases and bring a wider reform to the science, technology, engineering, and medical (STEM) ecosystem in the region. These incredible forces have led many great innovations of their time from impact-driven researches to groundbreaking discoveries, and plenty more. 

Here are APAC’s 7 most influential women in STEM, who have excelled in modern science and technology, and taken charge to inspire others by creating equitable opportunities for all. 

7 Influential Asian Women Innovators and Scientists to Watch

1. Juliana Chan

Juliana Chan, a former scientist who spent years researching nanomedicine design and drug delivery, is now the esteemed founder and CEO of Wildtype Media Group, based in Singapore. Juliana had a deep passion for nature and science since her childhood, which eventually grew into a full-time career after she graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a PhD degree in Biology. Juliana was also listed as one of the honorifics in MIT Technology Review’s 10 Innovators Under 35 (Asia).

In her pursuit to explore diverse opportunities, Juliana felt a disconnect and a lack of representation for women in science. Her experiences in the industry led her to switch her academic life for a more impactful role, launching Asian Scientist Magazine, which is now hailed as one of the top STEM magazines in the region. The agency has won many prestigious awards for its progressive approach and coverage of new innovations in health and technology, pharmaceuticals, and more. 

In 2015, Juliana was appointed as the Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum (WEF), and now continues to serve on the WEF Technology Pioneers Selection Committee.

Juliana Chan

2. Hsin-Jay Wu

Taiwan Outstanding Women in Science 2021 award winner, Hsin-Jay Wu, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, at the National Sun Yat-sen University. Wu’s appraisal came following the success of her radical research in exploring the application of thermoelectric materials, along with the relationship between microstructure, and others, which yielded a positive result, receiving an outstanding acknowledgement from the global STEM community. The recent revelation has proven to be potentially significant in the development of green energy sources. 

Boasting a diverse portfolio in the STEM field, Wu has published over 40 studies in Science Citation Index journals, some of her distinguished works include, Advanced Materials, and Advanced Functional Materials, along with others. 

She reckons science is a great way to “train people how to change their attitude.”

Wu’s optimistic demeanour has helped her pave the path ahead for her future, along with inspiring many other young women to pursue their careers in STEM. 

Hsin-Jay Wu

3. Vivian Yam

Renowned for her trailblazing role within Asia’s STEM stream, Vivian Yam is a celebrated chemist and professor who hails from Hong Kong. With various accomplishments under her belt, Vivian is currently the Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor in Chemistry and Energy and an Academician at The University of Hong Kong.

Over time, Vivian earned many honorific titles for her contributions and continuous efforts as the frontier of scientific innovation in the city. Vivian’s work in photochemistry helped her pave the way to making history, as she became the first young woman to be part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2001.

Receiving the L’Oréal-UNESCO Awards for Women in Science was one of her many successes in the field, which she acquired for her disruptive research and work on optimising lighting system efficiency and innovating solar-powered solutions. In 2021, Vivian accepted the InnoStars Award by Our Hong Kong Foundation, for her years of dedication and groundbreaking work in Inorganic Chemistry and Photochemistry

Vivian Yam

4. Dr. Marisa Ponpuak

Working the extra mile to uncover new preventable solutions for infectious diseases in Thailand, is local Bacteriologist and Immunologist, Dr .Marisa Ponpuak. Raised in the northern Lampang province, Marisa’s passion for the scientific discipline stems from her childhood. She received a scholarship at The Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology ( IPST ), which was only the start of her impeccable journey in researching the biological aspect of various illnesses. 

Marisa went on to complete her doctorate in molecular cell biology in the United States at Washington University School of Medicine, and returned to Thailand in 2010 joining Mahidol University, where she now serves as an Associate Professor of Microbiology

In 2017, Marisa was honoured as a Laureate for L’Oreal Thailand’s Women In Science fellowship for her trailblazing research on new preventive drugs for malaria and tuberculosis. Her groundbreaking work in the science realm, and vital to combating the occurrence of such endemic diseases in developing countries across the region.

Dr Marisa Ponpuak

5. Nguyen Thuc Quyen

Hailing from a small village in Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam, biochemistry researcher Nguyen Thuc Quyen, has made a reputable name for herself within the global science community. Once praised as the most influential woman scientist of all time, Thuc Quyen now continues to inspire the future generations in their pursuits to innovate in the STEM realm. At the age of 21, Thuc Quyen moved to the US to pursue her further education, completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She later went on to attain her doctorate in the same faculty.  

Time and again, Thuc Quyen has proven her commitment with many impactful contributions in the sector, this includes her research in exploring the organic carbon-based molecules and solar cell applications, and their role in facilitating the generation of electricity. Recognising her impressive work, Clarivate Analytics commended Thuc Quyen as the World’s Most Influential Minds in their Top 1% of Highly Cited Researchers in Materials Science in 2017. 

Nguyen Thuc Quyen

6. Yukiko Ogawa

A rising name in the global STEM landscape- Japanese-born Yukiko Ogawa has specialised in the field of materials science. Her primary research focus was on developing next-generation structural matter of lightweight and durable magnesium alloys that have shown great promise in potentially advancing fuel efficiency in electric vehicles.

Yukiko’s fascination for moulding new objects as a child,  sparked a lifelong interest in the field of materials science, as she believes it to “form the foundation of our society.”

In 2018, Yukiko won the  L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science International Rising Talents award. She is now a researcher at Ibaraki Prefecture’s National Institute for Materials Science and has received many more honorific mentions for her innumerable breakthrough in discovering a new shape-forming material, applied in various fields such as aerospace and automobiles.

Yukiko continues to inspire the next generation of young women and girls to make greater noise in the world of science and technology.

Yukiko Ogawa

7. Dr. Dharmica Mistry

A pioneering scientist and entrepreneur based in Australia, with an extensive expertise in the advancement of  biotechnology, Dr. Dharmica Mistry’s exemplary contributions in the field led her to a major breakthrough in breast cancer testing. Dharmica had revolutionised the detection and diagnosis of the ailment through her work behind BCAL Diagnostics, a Sydney-headquartered BioTech company, as the former founder and chief scientist, where she spent almost a decade researching and commercialising the universal screening process for abnormal breast cell growth.

Highly acclaimed for her continuous efforts, Dharmica has achieved many successes in her career, including being the recipient of the NSW Young Women of the Year Award in 2016, winning the Australian Technologies Competition in 2017, and plenty more. 

Trials and turbulence have been a normal part of her life. Understanding the many struggles faced by women scientists, Dharmica pivoted her career and approach and later joined Cicada Innovations, dedicating her time to mentoring and supporting impact-driven medical innovations within the country’s startup ecosystem.

Dharmica is now the Director of Diagnostics Industry Engagement at MTPConnect, where she continues to drive new innovation and growth within the medical technologies, biotechnologies, and pharmaceuticals sector in Australia. 

Dr Dharmica Mistry

@Wired for Wonder


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