Today, February 11, we celebrate a day that is especially meaningful to the Ellis Day Skin Science team: the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. As a women-led company that is built on a foundation of evidence-based science, it’s no surprise that this day would be near and dear to our hearts. Women have always been drivers of scientific discovery and innovation, and a complete list of all the amazing female scientists, both throughout history and today, who have made meaningful contributions to our understanding of the world would certainly be longer than my doctoral thesis! However, to honor our scientist sisters, we want to highlight just a few of the brilliant female scientists that inspire us here at Ellis Day.
One of our most esteemed scientific forebearers is Esther Lederberg (1922–2006), a woman who can be considered the founding mother of bacteriophage research. At Ellis Day, our Active Phage Serum contains tiny microbes known as bacteriophages (phages for short), that specifically target and kill certain types of blemish—and inflammation—causing skin bacteria, known as Cutibacterium acnes. There are A LOT of different types of phages in the world beyond those that kill C. acnes bacteria. Dr. Lederberg, a microbiologist and genetics pioneer, was the first person to isolate a phage known as Lambda, which infects a bacterium called Escherichia coli (aka E. coli).
You’ve likely heard of E. coli in the context of food poisoning or water contamination, but it’s also been one of the most widely studied organisms in the lab. Much of what we know about bacterial genetics was discovered from Dr. Lederberg’s research on E. coli. However, like many female scientists of her time, her pivotal contributions were often underappreciated and unrecognized. Today, we recognize her immense contributions to microbiology and draw inspiration from her incredible perseverance and impressive achievements.
In the month of February, we also celebrate Black History Month, which commemorates the myriad contributions that Black Americans have made to every aspect of our society and culture, all while enduring centuries of systemic racism and discrimination. One awe-inspiring female scientist is Dr. Ruth Ella Moore (1903–1994), the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the natural sciences in 1933 and the first Black American of either gender to obtain a PhD in Bacteriology at Ohio State University. Dr. Moore pursued a career in research at a time when it was rare for women to do so and made many significant contributions to the fields of microbiology and immunology, including studies on the infectious bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the effect of antibiotics on gut microbes, as well as pioneering work on blood types in African Americans. She was the first woman to lead any department at Howard University and the first Black American to join the American Society for Microbiology. Dr. Moore held many distinctions throughout her career, earning numerous awards and two honorary degrees. As a Black woman scientist, Dr. Moore overcame many barriers to become a leader in her field, and is truly a role model for women scientists everywhere.
Too often in discussions of notable and inspiring women scientists, we focus only on historical figures and ignore the many amazing and brilliant women doing groundbreaking science today. One such woman is Dr. Elizabeth Grice. Dr. Grice earned her Ph.D. in Human Genetics at Johns Hopkins University in 2006 and then worked under the mentorship of another brilliant woman scientist, Dr. Julie Segre, at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the NIH. While in Dr. Segre’s lab, Dr. Grice led some of the earliest groundbreaking studies characterizing the skin microbiome on different people and on different types of skin. Dr. Grice now runs her own lab as a tenured associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, where she continues to study the microbes that live on our skin. Although she is still early in her career, Dr. Grice has already amassed an impressive array of publications and professional awards and achievements. She is also mentoring a diverse and promising group of young trainees, many of whom are likely to be in the next generation of awesome woman scientists. Dr. Grice is truly one of our science heros, and we can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes in the future!
Women scientists have made our world a better place in so many ways, large and small. At Ellis Day, we celebrate all of the women who have dedicated their lives to scientific discovery, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers. We also celebrate the girls who are just starting out, maybe planning their first science project, and dreaming of a day when they too will make discoveries that change our understanding of the world. Let today also be a reminder that, although women today do not face the same blatant sexism and institutional discrimination that their predescessors did, there is still work to be done. This is particularly true for underrepresented minorities in science, who continue to encounter systemic racism and frequent microaggressions, even from seemingly ‘well-meaning’ mentors and colleagues. And to all the women and girls in science, past and present, we at Ellis Day thank you for all of the countless ways that you inspire us today and every day.
*Dr. Elizabeth Grice is not affiliated in any way with Ellis Day Skin Science, we just think she's a science rock star!
About Ellis Day Skin Science
We believe that modern skincare must be grounded in true microbiome science. We believe the answers are in the wild, natural world, which includes the surface of your skin.
At Ellis Day Skin Science, we pioneer natural phage-based products that target and kill bad bacteria associated with inflammation, damage, and aging, and enable good bacteria to flourish. By doing so, we aim to reset your microbiome for optimal skin health.
We use cutting-edge science to leverage nature, creating products that are just as kind and conscientious as they are effective, so that all can feel empowered with balanced, clear, radiant, and resilient skin.