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Stories from the Field

Women in Chemistry: Stories from the Field

Stories from the Field preserves and celebrates the contributions of women in science. From students striving for degrees to scientists looking back on their careers, this audio library captures triumphs, challenges, and insights in short, conversational interviews.

We at CHF thank all our Stories from the Field participants for sharing their experiences with us—and with generations of scientists to come.


“If I hadn’t had a sense of humor, it would have been a lot more difficult.”

The obstacles facing women today have not disappeared—they’ve just become more subtle, says Bonnie Charpentier. In this week’s episode, she discusses the importance of humor in facing adversity and achieving success.

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“If I really think about what is the proudest thing of my life, it’s my daughter.”

Maureen Rouhi, editor in chief of Chemical & Engineering News, shares the worldview that guided her journey toward a career in chemistry as well as her very proudest moment, which involved a much different kind of science.

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“If you don’t ask for it, no one is going to offer it to you.”

The biggest successes in Simone Fishburn’s career came when she designed her own roles within the companies she worked for. But doing that means knowing what you want and taking charge of your own career.

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“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Women are often faced with a stark choice: career or family. There must be more options, says Jamie Strachota, but first women have to ask for them.  

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“If you’re good at what you do, you cannot be denied.”

Joan Brennecke talks about how spending Saturdays with her dad pulling apart cars and old calculators led to a lifetime of curiosity.

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“If you’re good with language and good with communication, you have something to offer.”

In her job as a technical writer Rachael Brady is an artist surrounded by scientists. She talks about the challenges, joys, and importance of using strong communication skills to translate scientific discoveries, and discusses the power that comes from artistic and scientific minds reaching toward a common goal.

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“If you’re not happy where you are, you need to take stock and do something about that.”

Carolyn Ribes, a business analytical leader for the Dow Chemical Company, emphasizes knowing what you want and using that knowledge to create a fulfilling life and career.  


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“In science, you have to be very humble.”

Juana Acrivos, professor emeritus of chemistry at San Jose State University, reminds us that sometimes we must leave our expectations at the door—with chemistry and, more important, with people.

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“It’s a blur, but the standout part is I did it, I succeeded, and I had fun.”

In 1941 Helen Free was studying to be a Latin and English teacher—that is, until Pearl Harbor changed her fate. With the country’s young men being drafted into the war, there was suddenly a need for more women in science. Free switched her major, and a long and illustrious career began.

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“Never take no for an answer.”

Madeleine Jacobs, executive director and CEO of the American Chemical Society, tells the story of how she got her first job at Chemical & Engineering News ... by walking right in and asking for it. 

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Catalyst Series: Women in Chemistry

Women in Chemistry

Follow the adventures of eight leading women in chemistry and celebrate their life-changing, chance-taking, thrill-seeking love of science.