Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science

Explore our short film anthology that follows women working at the forefront of their fields.

“Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science” is a short film anthology from Science Friday and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) that follows women working at the forefront of their fields. Each episode blends deeply personal stories with innovative scientific research of women across STEM fields and takes viewers to places like the Arctic and to India’s space agency. By showing that challenges such as deeply-rooted cultural or institutional norms, grueling working conditions, or personal tragedy and sacrifice are not insurmountable obstacles to becoming a scientist or engineer, “Breakthrough” hopes to inspire a future generation of women to lead careers in STEM fields.

Breakthrough: Snapshots from Afar

In the second episode of Science Friday and HHMI’s series “Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science,” three scientists share stories about India’s first interplanetary mission—a mission to Mars. With limited time and budget to design and launch the satellite—called MOM (for Mars Orbiter Mission)—Seetha Somasundaram, Nandini Harinath, and Minal Rohit spent long hours in the clean room, followed by tense and exciting moments tracking the satellite as it entered Mars’s orbit. Their efforts helped India become the first nation to successfully reach the Red Planet on its first attempt.


Breakthrough: A Re-sounding Remedy

In 2004, pediatric audiologist Allyson Sisler-Dinwiddie plunged into a world of silence after a car accident damaged her hearing. Under the care of hearing researcher Rene Gifford, she became one of the first test subjects of a new technique to improve cochlear implants, devices that use electrodes to stimulate cells in the inner ear. Since then, Sisler-Dinwiddie and Gifford have worked together to restore other patients’ hearing. Watch the pair and their team at Vanderbilt University as they develop a resounding remedy to help people hear again.