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May 15, 2006

Chancellor Denton wins 2006 Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award

Chancellor Denice D. Denton has won the 2006 Maria Mitchell Women in Science Award, a prestigious national recognition of exceptional work that advances opportunities in the sciences for women and girls.

A jury of distinguished educators and scientists cited Denton’s work in developing programs on university campuses and with neighboring organizations to encourage women and girls to pursue the study of science.

“Maria Mitchell was a true mentor and role model for generations of women students,” Denton said. “I’m deeply honored to have been selected by the association that continues her goal of making the sciences more accessible to women.”

Denton’s leadership at UCSC and her accomplishments at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Washington were cited as examples of reaching beyond the campus into local communities and organizations to mentor girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Juror Nancy Doe Hopkins, Amgen professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the 2004 Women in Science winner, said that Denton, in her role as chancellor, “uses the power of her leadership position to raise the visibility of issues related to supporting and advancing women and girls in science-related careers both on and off the campus.”

Another juror, Judy Tevethia, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, cited Denton’s creative strategies to build mentoring networks. “Where they are few in number on a campus, women scientists have followed Denton’s cues to find and support each other,’’ she said.

As dean of engineering at the University of Washington for nine years, Denton created programs and strategies to match school-age girls with university students working on robotics and web-design projects. She served as principal investigator for a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant to eliminate barriers for women in the science, engineering, and math workplaces. She also supported junior faculty in grants writing, with the result that sponsored research funding at the College of Engineering more than doubled.

Earlier, at the University of Wisconsin, Denton served as faculty adviser for the Society of Women Engineers, providing advice and support to university students and encouraging them, in turn, to become mentors to young women in local high schools.

The jury said, “Denton’s ideas and projects are accessible models for other communities to follow.”

The award is named for Maria Mitchell (1818-1889), the first woman astronomer in the United States. It has been given since 1997 to a person, program, or organization whose efforts have encouraged the advancement of girls and women in the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science and technology.

Mitchell gained international fame in 1847 at age 29 when she discovered a comet by telescope. Mitchell became the first female professor of astronomy and later trained women scientists during 23 years as a professor at Vassar College.

The Maria Mitchell Association ( is a nonprofit science center on Nantucket Island, Mass., founded in 1902 to honor Mitchell, an astronomer, educator, and librarian, who hailed from the island 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast.

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