The Costa Rican diplomat was appointed the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010. She’s orchestrated successful international climate conferences, including the landmark Paris meeting in 2015. The Paris Agreement, which requires nearly 200 countriesto commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and invest in addressing climate change, has been widely hailed as the most ambitious climate agreement in history. One of China’s most daring and prolific fashion designers is taking the international fashion scene by storm. Known for fantastical designs inspired by the Chinese Imperial Court, Pei designed Rihanna’s famous fur-lined yellow gown with the enormous train from the 2015 Met Gala. Despite her massive following in China, Pei had not shown her work in a major fashion show until January, when she debuted at Paris Fashion Week. The Flint pediatrician was one of the first to connect the dots between the elevated lead levels in Flint water and health problems in children. As the complaints of Flint parents fell on deaf ears, Dr. Hanna-Attisha was one of the main whistleblowers alerting the public to the Flint water crisis, which is thought to have affected more than 8,000 children under the age of 6. Thanks to her research and activism, officials are now facing criminal charges for allowing Flint children to drink contaminated water. The University of Hawaii geochemist and geobiologist is known for her research using stable isotope analysis to analyze fossil forests. She made waves this year with Lab Girl, a bestselling memoir about botany and her life as a scientist, that doubled as a call to action to protect the Earth’s plant life. She’s also beenoutspoken about gender dynamics and sexual harassment in the academic sciences. The 87-year old Japanese artist (who was a contemporary of Andy Warhol’s) is known for her abstract expressionist work that often includes polka dots, patterns, and nets. She works in painting, sculpture, drawing, film and installation, and she’s considered one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary artists. Her installation Infinity Mirrored Room opened the Broad Museum in Los Angeles last fall and drew praise from Adele among many others. The director of the Center for Science and Environment has long been one of India’s most prominent environmentalists. She’s led campaigns against Coke and Pepsi for including high levels of pesticides in their sodas (an allegation which both companies vehemently deny). She has campaigned for decades to reduce air pollution in New Delhi. She brings social awareness to her environmentalism, recognizing poor and marginalized populations as crucial for environmental progress. As President of the University of Texas at El Paso since 1988, Natalicio is thelongest-serving president of a public research University. In the nearly three decades since she took the job, UTEP has transformed from a small commuter school to a major public research university, with a student body that is more than80% Mexican-American (with another 5% who commute directly from Mexico.) She’s a major thought leader in the best ways to help low-income, first-generation students succeed in college. She’s currently the Commander of the Pacific Air Forces, but General Lori Robinson just got a big promotion. In March, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that President Obama will nominate General Robinson to be the next head of the Northern Command, putting her in charge of all military activity in North America. If confirmed by the Senate, she will become the first woman to lead a U.S. combatant command, one of the most senior roles in the U.S. Military.
This developmental biologist is the first ever to receive regulatory approval to use a powerful new gene-editing technology on human embryos. In February, the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority approved Dr. Niakan’s application to use CRISPR–Cas9 to permanently change the genome of human embryos. Her research will lead to a better understanding of which genes are crucial to embryo development, and could help develop new treatments for infertility. Her study is likely the first in what will be a series of experiments in which we make ever more impactful changes to the genome, not only to improve our understanding of disease, but to cure them as well.
As the first Muslim woman who observes hijab to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Fencing team, Ibtihaj Muhammad is already a pioneer. But she’s also taking political risks, by speaking out against anti-Muslim rhetoric. Her upcoming appearance at the Olympics, wearing hijab, is being hailed as a moment of pride for American Muslims.