Monday, March 13, 2017

SRPS Women in STEM: Charlotte Friend

Charlotte Friend - Virologist
(March 11, 1921 – January 13, 1987)

Dr. Charlotte Friend was a ground-breaking virologist who researched the link between viruses and some cancers. She was a prolific researcher who published a staggering 163 papers over the course of her career, including 70 she wrote herself or with one other author.

After graduating from Hunter College in 1943, she joined the Navy as a member of the WAVES where she worked in hematology lab. After the war, she earned her PhD in Microbiology from Yale with an focus on immunology. In her research at Sloan-Kettering she worked with another pioneering female scientist, Cecily Cannan Selby. Together they discovered structures in cancer cells that resembled those found in virus-infected cells. This led her to pursue the possibility of cancer being caused by viruses. In 1956, she gave a presentation on the isolation of a virus that produced leukemia in adult mice, for which she was thoroughly criticized as an absurd idea. But, as it turns out, she was right. The virus she discovered -- Friend leukemia virus -- became the basis for decades of cancer research, as well as the development of a vaccine against the HIV.

In 1966, she became the first and only female full Professor at the newly opened Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she served as Director of the Center for Experimental Cell Biology. In 1971, she published another landmark paper detailing her work on targeting cancer cells to force them to stop multiplying, a course of research that continues today. In addition to critical her work in the lab, she was also an outspoken activist for scientific funding as well as women's rights.

To read more about her life and work, check out this informative piece from The New York History Blog.

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