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Discover magazine names Prof. Pascual one of 'The 50 Most Important Women in Science'

Mercedes Pascual, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology whose research has revealed links between El Nino climate fluctuations and cholera outbreaks, is one of "The 50 Most Important Women in Science" featured in the November issue of Discover magazine.
Pascual (Photo by David Bay)

Discover recognized Pascual for her research on complex ecological systems and for the cholera studies in particular. Two years ago, Pascual and co-workers found evidence that El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a major source of climate variability from year to year, influences cycles of cholera. Recently, they determined that the climate-cholera link has become stronger in recent decades. Cholera, an intestinal infection with symptoms that may include diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps, is a serious health problem in many parts of the world. Scientists who study climate change predict that ENSO will become stronger and more variable in coming years under a global warming scenario, so understanding how its connection to human disease changes will be increasingly important, Pascual says.

Discover's list of top women scientists resulted from a three-year investigation into the status of women in science. "To read their stories is to understand how important it is that the barriers facing women in science be broken down as quickly and entirely as possible," writes associate editor Kathy A. Svitil in an introduction to the 50 scientists' profiles. "If just one of these women had gotten fed up and quitas many dothe history of science would have been impoverished."

Pascual says her success results in part from her experiences growing up in South America. "I went to a French high school that had strong programs in math and science, and we were never made to feel there were any differences in expectations for women. Looking back, I never had a sense that these were subjects that I couldn't handle. Both at home and at school, I was always encouraged."

Articles like the one in Discover also can provide encouragement to girls and young women, says Pascual, who received her doctorate in 1995 from the Joint Program of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and joined the U-M faculty in 2001. "I think it helps girls to see the possibilities and to understand that women in science are not only being successful, they're also enjoying their work and getting satisfaction from it."

Mercedes Pascual, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology whose research has revealed links between El Nino climate fluctuations and cholera outbreaks, is one of "The 50 Most Important Women in Science" featured in the November issue of Discover magazine.

Discover recognized Pascual for her research on complex ecological systems and for the cholera studies in particular. Two years ago, Pascual and co-workers found evidence that El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a major source of climate variability from year to year, influences cycles of cholera. Recently, they determined that the climate-cholera link has become stronger in recent decades. Cholera, an intestinal infection with symptoms that may include diarrhea, vomiting and leg cramps, is a serious health problem in many parts of the world. Scientists who study climate change predict that ENSO will become stronger and more variable in coming years under a global warming scenario, so understanding how its connection to human disease changes will be increasingly important, Pascual says.

Discover's list of top women scientists resulted from a three-year investigation into the status of women in science. "To read their stories is to understand how important it is that the barriers facing women in science be broken down as quickly and entirely as possible," writes associate editor Kathy A. Svitil in an introduction to the 50 scientists' profiles. "If just one of these women had gotten fed up and quitas many dothe history of science would have been impoverished."

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