Exceptional: A Conversation with Kate Zernike & Interim Provost Beth A. Winkelstein, PhD

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - 1:30pm to 4:00pm

Hybrid (Golkin Room of Houston Hall, livestreamed on Zoom)

This location is ADA accessible

Come hear Interim Provost Beth A. Winkelstein, PhD, in conversation with Pulitzer-Prize–winning New York Times reporter Kate Zernike as they discuss her new book, The Exceptions: Nancy Hopkins, MIT, and the Fight for Women in Science. The talk will be followed by a book signing and reception at 3pm.


About the Book:

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who broke the story, the inspiring account of the sixteen female scientists who forced MIT to publicly admit it had been discriminating against its female faculty for years—sparking a nationwide reckoning with the pervasive sexism in science.

In 1999, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology admitted to discriminating against women on its faculty, forcing institutions across the country to confront a problem they had long ignored: the need for more women at the top levels of science. Written by the journalist who broke the story for The Boston Globe, The Exceptions is the untold story of how sixteen highly accomplished women on the MIT faculty came together to do the work that triggered the historic admission.

The Exceptions centers on the life of Nancy Hopkins, a reluctant feminist who became the leader of the sixteen and a hero to two generations of women in science. Hired to prestigious universities at the dawn of affirmative action efforts in the 1970s, Dr. Hopkins and her peers embarked on their careers believing that discrimination against women was a thing of the past—that science was, at last, a pure meritocracy. For years they explained away the discrimination they experienced as the exception, not the rule. Only when these few women came together after decades of underpayment and the denial of credit, advancement, and equal resources to do their work did they recognize the relentless pattern: women were often marginalized and minimized, especially as they grew older. Meanwhile, men of similar or lesser ability had their career paths paved and widened.

The Exceptions is a powerful yet all-too-familiar story that will resonate with all professional women who experience what those at MIT called “21st-century discrimination”—a subtle and stubborn bias, often unconscious but still damaging. As in bestsellers from Hidden Figures to Lab Girl and Code Girls, we are offered a rare glimpse into the world of high-level scientific research and learn about the extraordinary female scientists whose work has been overlooked throughout history, and how these women courageously fought for fair treatment as they struggled to achieve the recognition they rightfully deserve.


About the Speakers:

Kate Zernike has been a reporter for The New York Times since 2000. She was a member of the team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for stories about al-Qaeda before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. She was previously a reporter for The Boston Globe, where she broke the story of MIT’s admission that it had discriminated against women on its faculty, on which The Exceptions is based. The daughter and granddaughter of scientists, she is a graduate of Trinity College at the University of Toronto and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and sons.

Beth A. Winkelstein, PhD, Eduardo D. Glandt President’s Distinguished Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Neurosurgery, began her tenure as Interim Provost on July 1, 2021.

Prof. Winkelstein was appointed Deputy Provost in 2020, after serving as Vice Provost for Education since 2015. A former Penn undergraduate, she has taught at Penn for almost twenty years, becoming in that time one of the world’s leading innovators in research on new treatments for spine and other joint injuries. Her pioneering interdisciplinary research focuses on the mechanisms of bodily injury and pain – especially injuries from sports, automobile accidents, and/or degenerative diseases – and has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense, among many others, including a Presidential Early Career Award from the NSF. She is a global leader in research into orthopaedic and musculoskeletal disorders, including developing innovative new pharmacological treatments and biomedical devices to treat pain.

Prof. Winkelstein is the author of Orthopaedic Biomechanics (2012) and has published more than 175 papers and book chapters. She served as editor of the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering from 2012 to 2020 and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Editors of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and an Executive Committee Member of the World Council on Biomechanics. She is a Fellow and former member of the Board of Directors of the Biomedical Engineering Society and a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which has recognized her groundbreaking research with its Van C. Mow Medal and Y.C. Fung Young Investigator Award.

At Penn, she has served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Chair of the Graduate Group in Bioengineering, and a Penn Fellow, the cross-University program for select faculty members to develop leadership skills, build alliances across disciplines and gain deeper knowledge of University governance. In partnership with Prof. Dennis DeTurck, then Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, she led Penn’s multi-year grant (2013-2018) from the American Association of Universities to improve the quality of teaching in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially through new techniques of active in-class learning. SEAS students twice awarded her the Ford Motor Company Award for Faculty Advising, and in 2012-13 she led the cross-campus working group that studied best practices in undergraduate research as part of the University’s reaccreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

As Deputy Provost, she oversaw the academic policies and programs that govern undergraduate and graduate education across Penn’s 12 schools, as well as the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, the Center for Teaching & Learning, College Houses & Academic Services, Penn First Plus, New Undergraduate Student Orientation & Academic Initiatives, the Graduate Student Center, the Family Resource Center, the Online Learning Initiative, and the Office of Student Conduct.

Prof. Winkelstein joined the Penn faculty in 2002, following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College and a PhD in bioengineering from Duke University (1999). She earned a BSE cum laude in bioengineering from Penn in 1993, as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar.

Event Category