66. Victoria Orphan
Orphan is a geobiologist who received a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship (aka a “Genius Grant”) for her work examining deep-sea microbes and their effect on the ecosystem. By looking at the way these microbes process methane (a greenhouse gas that warms the planet more than carbon dioxide), her work seeks to understand the different ways our oceans and their creatures affect the Earth’s climate, an important study considering climate’s increasing impact on coastal world cities. Orphan is also the James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. —D.V.
67-68. Sheldon Fields & Christopher Hucks Ortiz
Fields is a registered nurse with over 25 years of experience leading administrative, research and academic teams. Ortiz is an evaluation specialist who has worked in community health centers. They have both had a long interest in the effect of community-based HIV prevention efforts on disenfranchised communities, and together they helped conduct the HIV Prevention Trials HPTN-073 study, an $8 million dollar study funded by the National Institute of Health to assess innovative methods of encouraging Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) use among black men who have sex with men (MSM) in three U.S. cities. Using a novel coordinated counseling and care approach that helped black men meet their sexual health and psychosocial needs, they developed better methods of keeping poor black MSM on PrEP, ensuring that the communities most affected by HIV can reduce new transmissions and stay healthier overall—a huge breakthrough. —D.V.
69. Rochelle Diamond
For centuries, science has followed a patriarchal system of publication and review mostly overseen by straight white men. So it’s noteworthy that Diamond and her wife (also a scientist) co-founded the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), an organization that is currently conducting a study to understand just how many LGBTQ people work in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In addition to the study, NOGLSTP also holds Out to Innovate, a biannual conference for LGBT STEM professionals. Regarding the study and conference, Diamond has said, “I want companies to step up and help us mentor people and be part of this inclusive programming to get people to come together and learn best practices and how to manage their lives so that they can feel not only productive, but safe.” —D.V.
70. Nergis Mavalvala
This past year you may have heard of a scientific experiment proving the existence of gravitational waves—disturbances in the fabric of spacetime that had been completely theoretical until then. Mavalvala, a professor of quantum astrophysics and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals’ 2014 Scientist of the Year, was a member of that experimental team; she began her work on it during her early years in graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a 2010 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for her work. While the existence of gravitational waves may sound like an inconsequential bit of egghead trivia, it could actually help unlock secrets about the creation of the universe and lead to a single unifying theory of all physics. She and her team will likely be nominated for a Nobel prize for their discovery. —D.V.