My Story List

Join in the discovery of WiSEM by exploring the My Story databases. Celebrate the contributions of Rutgers’ outstanding female scientists. Explore careers in science, engineering, mathematics, and the health professions by taking a peek into the academic and life adventures of women faculty at Rutgers University.

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Areas of Interest: Structural Biology, Bioinformatics, Protein-Nucleic Acid Interactions.
My Story: Shortly after I was born in 1943 in Chicago, my physician-father and housewife-mother moved our family to Brooklyn, New York. Even at a very young age, I was interested in science and aspired to become either a scientist or a physician like my father. When I was in high school, I was involved in many science-related projects. One program, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), involved traveling to different laboratories around New York City. My peers and I became “subway scholars” as we learned to independently navigate our way throughout the city. I traveled to Yeshiva...
Areas of Interest: Behavioral Ecology, Ecological risk, Human-Animal interaction, Social Behavior of Birds, Mercury and Lead, Fish Consumption and Risk.
My Story: I grew up on a vegetable farm in Niskayuna (Iroquois for corn fields) New York, where my first jobs as an 8 year old was scaring the Crows and Blackbirds from my fathers corn fields. As I grew older I rode a horse around the fields instead of walking, but I never tired of watching the foraging behavior of the mysterious flocks of birds. At a very early age my mother identified the wild flowers in the woods behind our house and my father showed me nests of Great Horned Owls and Killdeer. I took to bringing home injured birds, any snakes and salamanders I could find, and a range of frogs and...
Areas of Interest: Fungal genetics and secondary metabolism, Genomics, Biodegradation and biotechnology, Bioethics, Biology of Women, History of Microbiology.
My Story: My father, John Anton Wennstrom, was a Swedish-speaking immigrant from a Finnish island archipelago in the Baltic Sea. My mother, Kerttu Johnson Wennstrom was from Brooklyn, New York, born of Finnish immigrants parents. She did not learn to speak English until she started school at the age of 6. Scandinavian traditions were so important in my home that my parents thought that Americans didn’t have a real culture. They were intelligent and hard working people for whom high school graduation was a significant educational achievement. For them, college was a poorly understood but laudable...