Outstanding Women in Science 2020 Awardee: Rupa Iyer, Ph.D.

Dr. Rupa Iyer

Collaborator. Facilitator. Accelerator. These are just a few words to describe Association for Women in Science Gulf Coast Houston (AWIS GCH) Chapter’s Outstanding Woman in Science 2020 awardee, Dr. Rupa Iyer.

Dr. Iyer is a Professor of Engineering Technology, and the founding director of Biotechnology Programs at the University of Houston (UH). She also serves as the Director of the Center for Life Sciences Technology at UH. Her journey and her research expertise are a true depiction of her outstanding achievements in STEM. Dr. Iyer and her contributions portray the holy grail of collaboration, strategic innovation, advocacy, and communication required for educational and research advancements in STEM at personal and institutional level, while still beholding the core values of mutual respect, transparency and empathy as a scientist.

An Outstanding Women in Science (OWIS) Seminar was held virtually on December 02, 2020 in honor of Dr. Iyer. “Dr. Iyer is an impressive example of women in Biotechnology who has inspired many students to careers in sciences, and has made a difference in the field of Biotechnology”, said Dr. Patrice Yarbough, AWIS GCH advisory board member and Dr. Iyer’s long-time collaborator and friend. Dr. Iyer’s talk on “An Entrepreneurial Approach to Enhancing and Broadening Participation in STEM Research and Education” highlighted her career endeavors and scientific journey from her life in India to being a professor at UH. She reminisced about her time as an instructor at the Wharton County Junior College in TX where she discovered some of the challenges and barriers that students in sciences face. A pivotal point in her career was a serendipitous opportunity to tie up with the National Science Foundation which led to the creation of the education and research infrastructure of a new interdisciplinary biotechnology program at UH. This innovative program has since then expanded and diversified as the 2nd most well attended biotech degree in the country. Dr. Iyer’s environmental biotech research and publications with her students got her the tenure, a second pivotal point in her career. She was touched to see Brandon Bell, one of the seven students from the first batch of her undergrad program, attending this event! Brandon spoke about his experience after graduating from UH and said “Dr. Iyer’s program, and her mentorship and values, have shaped many student careers and helped them form a different outlook of science”. The event concluded with a lively Q&A discussing the impact of Dr. Iyer’s educational and research contributions to aspiring generations of scientists.

AWIS GCH is proud to honor Dr. Rupa Iyer and wishes her the best in her future scientific and personal endeavors.

OWIS Seminar Series is held annually to acknowledge and honor a distinguished woman for her extraordinary contribution to a STEM field, and for inspiring, leading and mentoring future scientists and STEM professionals. The event was led by Sandhya Sharma, 2020-2021 OWIS Chair.

Summary by Rupa Kanchi, Science Communication Chair and Sandhya Sharma, OWIS Chair, AWIS GCH

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