In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing stories of Duke women who have founded companies, led groundbreaking research efforts, reshaped pedagogy, and beyond—women who have innovated and made their mark.
Join us in celebrating some of the many female Duke faculty, students, staff, and alumnae who are changing the world with their innovations.
Sanford graduate Maya Ajmera founded the Global Fund for Children, a nonprofit that invests in innovative, community-based organizations working with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth.
Paula Alexander, Fuqua ’98, is Director, Sustainable Business & Innovation for Burt’s Bees and has played an important role influencing sustainability strategy at Burts Bees’ parent company, Clorox.
Ivy Altomare, a medical oncologist with two decades of clinical and research experience, is developing a drug to treat Hand-Foot Syndrome, a painful side effect of some cancer treatments.
Valerie Ashby, dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a chemist whose research contributes to the design and synthesis of materials for biomedical applications like X-ray contrast agents and drug delivery materials.
I&E board co-chair Melissa Bernstein ’87 is cofounder and co-CEO, with husband Doug, of Melissa & Doug, a leading designer and manufacturer of educational toys.
I&E board member Lisa Blau ’97 is a partner at __able, an investment partnership focused on supporting visionary early-stage brands in the positive, healthy living space.
Dawn Bowles, who runs the Duke Human Heart Repository, is on the team that discovered a link between heart failure and a protein linked to cystic fibrosis, CTFR. They’re using heart tissues to develop and test gene therapy for CTFR.
With her work on open source learning, I&E core faculty member Aria Chernik is working to help administrators and teachers change the way computer science is taught in North Carolina elementary schools. #IAmOpenLearning #IAmCS
Lin Chua LLM’00 cofounded InterNex Capital, a fintech company that uses tech integrations, real-time analytics, and AI to fund small and medium sized businesses.
A serial entrepreneur, faculty director for CASE, founding director of the CASE i3 Initiative on Impact Investing, and co-leader of the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD), Cathy Clark has helped build the fields of impact investing and social entrepreneurship for over 30 years.
An expert on physics-based machine learning algorithms for big data, Leslie Collins‘ work has applications for remediating human communication impairments, detecting potentially hazardous buried objects, identifying energy infrastructure, predicting seizures, and more.
Ingrid Daubechies’ study of mathematical structures called wavelets has enabled data compression in applications ranging from smartphones, to MRI machines, to the study of fossils, and even to art forgeries.
DGHI alums Denali Dahl and Happy Ghosh are developing an at-home test strip for preeclampsia with the potential to transform health outcomes for women without access to regular prenatal care.
Alexandra Davis T’20 is founder and CEO of the Coven, a digital publication redefining how women positively interact with social media. She is also the founder and executive chairperson of SWISH Foundation, a nonprofit for high school students serving their local homeless populations.
Monika Dharia E’19 is founder and CEO of GreenGear Supply Company, which makes eco-friendly rain ponchos and other products using 100% recyclable bioplastic.
Science & Society postdoc Ariana Eily, who works to make science more accessible via innovative communication, created a science-art exhibit called the Art of a Scientist and founded Duke BioCoRE Science Communication.
Lauren Fine JD’11 cofounded the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, which works to keep children out of adult jails and prisons and to bring home people sentenced as children to die in prison.
I&E board member April Gargiulo ’96 is founder and CEO of Vintner’s Daughter, a luxury skincare company committed to performance-driven, quality-focused, non-toxic skincare.
Chemist Amanda Hargrove works on the small-molecule targeting of RNA, which may hold the key to curing a range of hard-to-fight diseases. “The entire genome might become targetable if the field is successful,” said Hargrove.
Rhian Horton T’20 is founder and president of MindSpark, an after-school enrichment program in finance and STEM for kids in lower-income public elementary schools.
Libby Magee Coles JD’08 founded Durham-based nonprofit Justice Matters, which combats human trafficking by providing trauma-informed legal services and promoting just policies and practices throughout North Carolina.
A psychiatrist with more than 20 years of clinical and research experience, Christine Marx is working on a novel neurosteroid therapy for postpartum depression.
Jada Mclean E’15 is cofounder and CEO of Hurry Home, the platform enabling home ownership of houses valued at $80K or less through shared ownership.
Hyasintha Ntuyeko is founder and CEO of Kasole Secrets, a Duke-UNICEF Innovation Accelerator Enterprise that makes and distributes affordable, disposable, biodegradable pads and offers interactive menstrual health and hygiene curriculum for both boys and girls in Tanzania.
Named on last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 in Energy list, Megan O’Connor E’17 is cofounder of Nth Cycle, a recycling-focused company working to transition the U.S. away from its reliance on primary mining and refining of metals overseas.
Seun Okimi T’20 uses her background in chemistry to help inform her YouTube tutorials on innovative ways to care for and style black women’s hair, which have received more than 10M views since she started her channel in 2016.
I&E board member Selwyn Rayzor ’93 is president of the Rayzor Company, a privately owned investment company, and is the founding board chair of the Great Plains Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
To increase awareness of various health issues among immigrant communities, Madhavi Reddy created a “health superhero” comic book based on a South Asian character for use in waiting rooms.
Jane Richardson’s work with her husband, David, to map out protein structures has advanced the field of structural biology and revolutionized science and medicine.
An expert on how machine learning algorithms are used to inform high-stakes decisions, Cynthia Rudin‘s work has applications across multiple fields: energy, criminal justice, health care, and birdwatching (yes, birdwatching).
Christine Schindler E’15 is cofounder and CEO of Pathspot, a hand scanner to detect germs that cause foodborne illness (named one of Time’s best inventions of 2019), and founder and CEO of Girls Engineering Change.
Dori Steinberg has developed digital health tools to help monitor and encourage lifestyle changes that treat obesity and chronic diseases, particularly in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.
Adrienne Stiff-Roberts has developed a technique for producing thin-film perovskites—hybrid organic-inorganic semiconductors with great promise for new energy tech—with delicate organic components destroyed by other techniques.
With research involving musculoskeletal tissue repair, disease biophysics, and organ-on-a-chip technology, Shyni Varghese is innovating in the fields of biomaterials and stem cells.
Julia Wuench, Fuqua ’17, is founder of The Authenticity Guide, an executive and career coaching firm, and co-owns Eastcut Sandwich Bar in Durham.