A young woman leaves New York to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at a small Virginia women’s college in the 1950s. After graduate school, she becomes a revered electron microscopist – but not without the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Consequently, she spends her life helping female students at her alma mater advance their own careers and pursue their scientific passions.

It sounds like Lessons in Chemistry, the popular Apple+ miniseries based on the novel by Bonnie Garmus, chronicling the life of a female chemist challenging the status quo in the mid-20th century.

Yet, it’s the true story of Irene Piscopo Rodgers ’59. She and other Mary Washington alumnae – such as Anne Hope Scott ’59, Jerri Barden Perkins ’61 and Marilyn Shull Black ’69 – made scientific breakthroughs while breaking through the glass ceiling.

“These women overcame obstacles at a time when there were few women in STEM and found success in their fields,” said Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement Katie Turcotte. “We are so thankful to them and others who continue to invest in their alma mater so that students today can achieve their goals, just as they did.”

On Feb. 11’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UMW recognizes alumnae who have established or contributed toward scholarships and other awards in the sciences. A total of 21 graduates have given $10,000 or more to these areas over the years, all of them women. Read more.