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Bay Path’s Women in STEM Speaker Series Kicks Off Nov. 19

LONGMEADOW — The Center of Excellence for Women in STEM at Bay Path University will welcome Dr. Joan Bennett as the first speaker in its Women in STEM Speaker Series. Bennett’s lecture, “Hurricane Katrina, Fungi, and Feminism: One Woman’s Story,” takes place Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in Mills Theatre at Carr Hall on the university’s Longmeadow campus, and is free and open to the public.

It took a weather catastrophe to provide Bennett the opportunity to link her scientific fascination with fungi with her passion to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) for women. Her house, submerged by the waters of Katrina, was the perfect laboratory. Meanwhile, her new position at Rutgers University allowed her to become a key influencer and role model for emerging young women scientists. Shuttling between New Orleans and New Jersey, Bennett entered a chapter in her career that provides the basis for her lecture.

Bennett will talk about her life journey, share her research, and tackle the questions that are still being asked in the scientific community and beyond, such as: why do men still dominate in leadership positions in the science and technology disciplines? Why can’t we keep young women interested in STEM even from an early age? What does the current research tell us about the intersection of sex and science? And much more.

Bennett is a distinguished professor of Plant Biology and Pathology at Rutgers. A past president of both the American Society for Microbiology and the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005.

She received her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and, after more than 30 years on the faculty of Tulane University in New Orleans, she came to Rutgers University in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At Rutgers, she was charged with founding an Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. At Rutgers, Bennett runs a laboratory that does research on the volatile organic compounds emitted by fungi.

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