Science isn’t boring. Neither are these women scientists!

Celebrating its sixth year, the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated Feb. 11 in dozens of countries every year.

Yesim Darici

In past years, Yesim Darici organized lively and interactive celebrations on campus featuring top women scientists at FIU. But the COVID-19 pandemic means no in-person activities in 2021. Darici, who was recently named associate vice provost for faculty development and STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medicine) and director of Women in STEMM at FIU, is not letting Feb. 11 pass without any acknowledgement. She has organized a video exhibit in the Graham Center and complementary display on the GC lawns. Though there will be no fun science demonstrations this year, it’s still a time to celebrate FIU women in science. In 2020, we brought you stories on innovative research, groundbreaking discoveries and impact-driven solutions developed by the women scientists at FIU. So today, we’re bringing you a few fun, lesser-known facts about some of the women we’ve featured in the past year.

  • In addition to her new roles at FIU, Darici is also a physicist. In fact, she became the first female physics professor at any university in Florida when she accepted the job at FIU in the mid-1980s. She was also the first professor at FIU — male or female — to be granted start-up funds to establish her lab here.
  • Laura Garcia Barcia is a marine sciences Ph.D. candidate who studies toxic chemicals in large marine animals. But during her undergraduate years in her native Spain, she was part of a 200-year-old Catalan cultural tradition of building human towers. These towers can reach to almost eight stories high! Garcia Barcia was captain of her college team — and usually ended up near the very top.
  • FIU marine evolutionary biologist Heather Bracken-Grissom has made her fair share of news over the years — discovering a monster larva was actually a shrimp, was part of a team that was the first to capture a giant squid on video in U.S. Waters and more recently, discovered deep sea shrimp are covered in organs that see light. Now, thanks to researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Smithsonian, she will be forever immortalized in hermit crab form. The researchers recently named a newly discovered species Cancellus heatherae in honor of FIU’s ultimate decapod expert.
  • Before she was a Fulbright scholar and studying the microbiome as a Ph.D. student in forensic science at FIU, Mirna Ghemrawi was just a girl in Lebanon being picked on by her siblings. Ghemrawi’s skin was lighter than theirs, and they convinced her she was switched at birth. An avid watcher of crime scene investigation shows, Ghemrawi thought if she could just learn more about her family’s DNA she could prove them wrong. Eventually, she realized they were just joking, but that reality didn’t temper her passion for a good investigation.
  • Biological sciences Ph.D. student Tanja Zerulla has built a following of nearly 16,000 people on TikTok, the wildly popular video-sharing app. She doesn’t show off her mad dance skills or funny tutorials on how to convert a truck bed into a kiddie pool. Her account, TalksToFish, showcases science.
  • Biomolecular scientist Yuan Liu has dedicated her career to identifying innovative treatments for cancer, Huntington’s Disease and other serious illnesses. Focused on wellness and healing, Liu makes sure to maintain her own health. That’s why, when she is on campus, she eats exclusively at 8th Street Café. Nowhere else. She says it’s the best place for healthy balanced eating. For the occasional indulgence, you might find her grabbing a cone of frozen yogurt, but never more than once a week. 

We’re always looking for great stories. Do you know any fun facts about woman scientists from FIU — faculty member, student or alumna — and are willing to share them with us? Send us an email at