Breaking boundaries, inspiring change: Women in science share their stories

Sonia Minnes headshot in Mandel School

From laboratory spaces to clinical settings and even in villages as far away as Nairobi, Kenya, Case Western Reserve University’s many women in science are breaking boundaries in their fields.

But their efforts aren’t only revolutionizing such feats as how we store energy, treat water sources or ensure children stay safe from lead exposure—they’re inspiring the next generation of women in science to forge their own paths.

This dynamic takes center stage each year as the United Nations recognizes International Day of Women and Girls in Science (Feb. 11), a day meant to help combat the gender gap that persists in science and promote equal access for women.

In celebration of the day,The Daily spoke with just a few of the trailblazing women who are leading and working in science at CWRU—from settings in medicine, chemistry and engineering to social science and the law.

Sonia Minnes

Verna Houck Motto Professor of Social Work
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

With a determined focus on the long-term well-being of children, Sonia Minnes is dedicated to bridging the gap between research and actionable strategies in preventing lead poisoning. As the Verna Houck Motto Professor of Social Work and research director at the Schubert Center for Child Studies, Minnes is working to eliminate this critical impediment to child development through her work with the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition’s Educational Intervention Subcommittee.

The group works toward aligning research findings with practical policy measures and recently developed recommendations for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to address elevated lead levels and their educational impact. They also petitioned the Department of Developmental Disabilities to change the elevated blood lead levels eligibility requirement from 3.5 to 5 micrograms per deciliter so children with levels in that range receive treatment for any health impacts, and the exposure sources are mitigated.

Minnes’ research has always focused on children—the majority of her academic articles are related to the developmental effects of prenatal cocaine/polydrug exposure. An important part of her work is evaluating environmental factors that either interact with or independently play a role in behavioral and cognitive outcomes in children. 

Throughout her career, Minnes has been fortunate to have had mentors teach her about the science of prenatal drug exposure and the importance of the environment in the development of young children.

“I feel very lucky to have had such successful role models and women colleagues show me the way,” she reflected.

Read about the other CWRU women in science.