This fall, 4,911 women major in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines at Iowa State University. Those graduating Dec. 21 will hear commencement speaker Peggy Whitson, a biochemist-astronaut who trailblazed her way from small-town Iowa to record-setting space expeditions and NASA leadership.
Whitson was probably a departure from the norm when she graduated in biology/chemistry from Iowa Wesleyan College in 1981 and earned a doctorate in biochemistry from Rice University four years later. Today at Iowa State, women constitute about half of the majors in biology, chemistry and biochemistry. And earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Iowa State among the top universities for granting the largest proportion of bachelor’s degrees in STEM disciplines.