November SOTM: Victoria Prince

by Hannah Brechka

Dr. Victoria Prinvicky-prince1ce’s résumé is stacked with her prestigious accomplishments. Dean and Director of the Office of Graduate Affairs, Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago, post-doctoral fellowships at Princeton University and Guy’s Hospital in London. The list goes on! Dr. Prince stands out on the page as one of the most influential and powerful women in the University of Chicago’s Biology community, but to her students and colleagues, she’s Vicky.

In the spring of 2014, I was lucky enough to take Vicky’s Vertebrate Development course, co-taught by her long-time colleague and friend Cliff Ragsdale. I had at that point only known her as Dean Prince, but she insisted that everyone refer to her by her endearing nickname, immediately putting everyone at ease around her. Vicky makes you feel like her equal; that you are colleagues, and not a subordinate. Her teaching style is casual, but she expects nothing but the best from her students.

My relationship with Vicky has developed and grown since that course. She agreed to be on my thesis committee, and has offered me opportunities to be an advocate for the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) that I am immensely grateful for. It was a pleasure to sit down with her for this article, as I got to learn about her hopes and dreams and how she found her path to where she is now when she usually spends her time aiding graduate students with their dreams. I learned that she has always loved science and that she has followed her intuitive nose and her colleagues’ encouragements to her current position. Luckily for all BSD graduate students, her friend Cliff Ragsdale suggested that she apply for a position at the University of Chicago. Even though all she knew about the city was what she saw on E.R., Vicky has flourished here moving up the ranks from Assistant Professor to Committee Chair to Dean of Graduate Affairs with grace.

Vicky divvies up her time between leading a productive developmental biology lab, teaching courses and running the University of Chicago’s BSD graduate program. While she finds juggling her three distinct roles difficult at times, she commits her immense intellect and seemingly endless capacity for empathy to each. These three roles keep her busy but she reveals that, “the gratifying part is being able to interact with really smart young people, and seeing them grow and do well”. This sentiment embodies Vicky as a mentor, educator and leader. For her, students take priority.

Her laboratory is full of bustling students and bubbling fish. Vicky’s early post-doctoral work on chicken embryos kindled her passion for embryology, but her career was launched with the risky move of using zebra fish as a model organism for understanding basic developmental processes. While now considered one of the best tools for easy access to early stage embryos, prized for their optical clarity and speed of genetic manipulations, at the time there were few researchers and even fewer tools for working on Danio rerio. Vicky’s contributions to the scientific field have allowed the humble zebra fish to become one of the major players in the world of model organisms. “I’m not lying awake at night thinking about my Nobel Prize,” Vicky states bluntly, “and honestly I think some people are. They’re worried about their legacy; they want to get that external recognition…I’m fueled by local people in my field saying ‘that was a good experiment.’ I strive for that”.

As Dean, Vicky has brought many changes to the science graduate students in the BSD, but one in particular has had huge benefits for her students: the myCHOICE program. MyCHOICE (CHicago Options In Career Empowerment) was developed to broaden the experiences and training science graduate students and postdocs receive at UChicago. MyCHOICE is funded through an NIH Broadening Experiences in Science Training grant that has three principal investigators in addition to Vicky and a dedicated steering committee of faculty, staff and trainees. “I just got the nicest email from a student who is about to graduate. He’s got a job offer that wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t had this internship through myCHOICE,” she recalled, voice gushing with enthusiasm, “Yay!” It isn’t just these big programs where Vicky’s impact will be felt, but through the small interactions and support she gives to each student under her care.

Vicky may never get a Nobel Prize for her scientific endeavors, but it wouldn’t surprise those who know her if she did. Her unrelenting curiosity and high expectations for herself and her students means no prize could adequately capture the immense impact that Vicky has had. Her legacy is the young scientists from the University of Chicago who will go on to become leaders tomorrow because she made us her first priority. And we are all very grateful to her.



Monday, October 31st, 2016 Events Comments Off on November SOTM: Victoria Prince

Join AWIS Chicago for our 10th Annual Awards Dinner

Please join AWIS Chicago in our 10th year of celebration of women in science, as we honor Yamuna Krishnan and Miiri Kotche, recipients of the 2016 Innovator and Motivator Awards. Our annual awards dinner will include short talks by our distinguished awardees about their work, career paths, and insights on women in science. Registration includes family style dinner, unlimited water and pop, and networking.

When: Thursday, July 14, 2016 from 6:00 Pm to 9:00 PM (CDT)

Where: Athena Greek Restaurant 212 S. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60661

For more information and to register please click here.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016 Annual Innovator Award, Events Comments Off on Join AWIS Chicago for our 10th Annual Awards Dinner

AWIS-Chicago Awards Female Students at the 66th CPS Science Fair

By Ana Shulla-Mesi, PhD

The 66th annual Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Student Science Fair took place at the Museum of Science and Industry on March 17-20, 2016. Representatives from the Association of Women in Science (AWIS) Chicago served as Special Award Judges to recognize outstanding female students in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The STEM areas represented at this year’s Science Fair were Aerospace Science, Behavioral Science, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Electronics, Engineering, Environmental Science, Health Science, Materials Science, Mathematics, Microbiology, Physics and Zoology. There were a total of 357 science projects presented and more than sixty percent of these projects (223) were led by female students. Female students comprised a large majority of presenters in the areas of Zoology, Behavioral Science and Biochemistry. In the future it would be great to see more girls presenting in other fields including Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science.

2016-03-18 11.51.04

AWIS-Chicago board members, Barbara Di Eugenio and Ana Shulla-Mesi together with volunteers Susan Meschel and Jacqueline Gresham awarded five $50 gift cards to outstanding female exhibitors showing promise in scientific research.

This year awardees were:

Madeline Yu, 8th Grade/Environmental Science

Nadiya Tarnavchyk, 7th Grade/Chemistry

Hanna Mularczyk, 11th Grade/Mathematics

Veronica Garklavs, 10th Grade/Chemistry

Samone Patterson, 10th Grade/Electronics

AWIS-Chicago will continue the tradition of recognizing and promoting female student scientists. The next Science Fair will be held at the end of March 2017. If interested in volunteering at this event keep an eye for the announcement from AWIS Communications.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on AWIS-Chicago Awards Female Students at the 66th CPS Science Fair

Nominations are NOW OPEN for the Annual Innovator Award and Motivator Award by AWIS Chicago

The annual AWIS Chicago “Innovator Award” exemplifies AWIS Chicago’s commitment to recognizing women in the Chicagoland area who have provided innovative research contributions in science and engineering. We are also aware that although good mentors are an important component to a successful career, their contributions are often overlooked. To highlight the invaluable support that a great mentor provides, AWIS Chicago is also accepting nominations for the recipient of our “Motivator Award”. Superb mentors from any or the broad branches of STEM (science, technology, engineering or mathematics) are eligible for this award.

Criteria for both awards are listed below:

Innovator Award Criteria:
· A female scientist with innovative contributions to fields of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)
· Geographically located within the Chicagoland area
· AWIS membership not required

Motivator Award Criteria:
· An individual (male or female) with demonstrated service, support, and mentorship of women in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM)
· Geographically located within the Chicagoland area
· AWIS membership not required

The Innovator Nomination Form and Motivator Nomination Form  can be submitted by March 15, 2016 to Any other questions please feel free to email us.

We look forward to hearing about your favorite mentors and leaders!



Thursday, January 28th, 2016 Events Comments Off on Nominations are NOW OPEN for the Annual Innovator Award and Motivator Award by AWIS Chicago

Mentoring Circles Kickoff-October 31, 2015

AWIS Chicago has started a mentorship program “Mentoring Circles”! This pilot program matches students/postdocs/early career scientists with experienced mentors across the Chicagoland area. The Kickoff training event was held on October 31st at Northwestern University Chicago campus, featuring Dr. Rick McGee, Associate Dean for Faculty Recruitment & Professional Development at Northwestern University, who led an engaging and interactive workshop on mentoring relationships.

For more information on joining the Mentoring Circles program please email

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on Mentoring Circles Kickoff-October 31, 2015

Summer Picnic Potluck-July 19, 2015

AWIS hosted a summer potluck picnic at the Montrose Harbor on July 19, 2015. It was an “old-fashioned” picnic, and everyone contributed by bringing blankets, chairs, tables and food! It was great to be able to get everyone together on that beautiful summer day and to see some new faces in the crowd!

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on Summer Picnic Potluck-July 19, 2015

Spring Career Panel-April 21, 2015

AWIS Chicago hosted a career panel on April21, 2015 featuring four amazing and talented women:

Jennifer Cole, PhD
Assistant Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University
Lisa Durham, MS
Principal Environmental Engineer, Argonne National Laboratory
Kalpana Shankar, PhD
R&D Project Manager, PharMEDium Healthcare

The career panel was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) West campus and was moderated by AWIS’ Newsletter Editor, Katharine Kim. The evening began with some mingling and light snacks and was followed by a short talk by each of the panelist. A lively Q&A session followed the talks and the evening concluded with some more networking opportunities. AWIS Chicago would like to thank the panelists for their time and participation in this event!

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on Spring Career Panel-April 21, 2015

Chicago Fall Kickoff network-a-thon-November 20, 2014

AWIS Chicago members got together to meet and mingle at this fall kickoff event held at D4 Irish Pub and Cafe in downtown Chicago. The new executive board was introduced, and participants interacted with each other in 15 minute rotations of speed networking.

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on Chicago Fall Kickoff network-a-thon-November 20, 2014

Social Event-April 27, 2014

Fellow AWIS members and local wine experts at Lush Wine and Spirits enjoyed an afternoon of wine and socializing in the company of colleagues and friends!

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on Social Event-April 27, 2014

AAAS Family Days-February 13, 2014

The never-ending demands of a career in science make it challenging to balance both personal and professional responsibilities. Developed by AWIS and originally funded by the Elsevier Foundation, this well-attended workshop helped identify the levels of personal fulfillment and professional success right for each individual. Facilitated by AWIS board members: Keng Jin Lee, Marina Pazin and Tara Teppen, the workshop focused on strategies to help achieve work-life satisfaction. The successful workshop was highly interactive, with insights shared by attendees to the group as a whole or in small groups.

AWIS Chicago also helped organize some fun Family Science Day activities revolving around genetics and computer science. A great time was had by both the children and the scientists!

Sunday, January 10th, 2016 Past Events Comments Off on AAAS Family Days-February 13, 2014

2017 AWIS-Chicago Innovator:
Ramille Shah, Ph.D
Northwestern University

2017 AWIS-Chicago Motivator:
Jini Ramprakash, MBA, M.Sc.
Argonne National Laboratory