11 La Jolla scientists named among the world’s best female researchers

Steffanie Strathdee, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego, has been named among the best female scientists in the world.
Steffanie Strathdee, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego, has been named among the best female scientists in the world.
(Erik Jepsen / UC San Diego )

The list compiled by includes everyone from an expert on sleep disorders to a scientist who modifies plants to help them capture and store carbon.

Eleven La Jolla researchers have been named among the 1,000 best female scientists in the world by, a widely used research portal for scientists.

This is an inaugural list by the England-based company, which says it based its choices on the scholars’ productivity, impact of their work, specific contributions to their fields, and their awards and achievements.

Eight of the local scholars are current or emeritus faculty members at UC San Diego, one of the nation’s 10 largest research schools. Two others are associated with the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and one works at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Most scientists aren’t widely known to the public. But UCSD epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee, who is on the list, got a lot of attention in 2019 for “The Perfect Predator,” the non-fiction book she co-wrote with her husband, Tom Patterson.

The book tells the story of how Strathdee and her colleagues used an experimental mix of viruses to save her husband from dying of a superbug infection he developed in Egypt.

The seven other UCSD scholars are:

• Sonia Ancoli-Israel, an emeritus psychiatry professor known for her insights about how sleep disorders can affect aging and how to treat such disorders in people with dementia

• Susan Taylor, a structural biologist whose study of cells has proved useful in the development of therapeutic drugs

• Marta Kutas, an emeritus professor of cognitive science who explored how the human brain works, with a focus on language comprehension and memory

• Susan Tapert, a psychiatry professor who studies brain development in children and adolescents

• Andrea LaCroix, an epidemiologist who studies healthy aging and cognition in older women and men

• Terry Jernigan, a cognitive scientist who studies how the minds and brains of adolescents develop and how those changes influence things such as mood, decision-making and risk-taking

• Irene Litvan, a neurologist who studies movement disorders and ways to come up with therapies to treat them

The list also includes Salk Institute scholars Joanne Chory, a cell biologist who studies ways to improve the ability of plants to capture and store carbon, and emeritus researcher Catherine Rivier, who studied how the brain perceives and responds to things such as infections and psychological threats.

Representing the La Jolla Institute for Immunology on the list is Anjana Rao, a cell biologist who uses immune cells and stem cells to study gene expression.

The list was developed by Imed Bouchrika, a data scientist who said in an online statement that “the aim of this ranking is to inspire female scholars, women considering an academic career, as well as decision-makers worldwide with the example of successful women in the scientific community. We hope it will contribute to providing more opportunities, visibility and equal chances for women in science.” ◆