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Marie Maynard Daly: A Pioneer in Biochemistry

Marie Maynard Daly made history as the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. Born on April 16, 1921, in New York City, Daly's passion for science was inspired by her father, who had to abandon his own dreams of a science career due to financial constraints. This background fueled her dedication to her studies and to breaking barriers in her field.

Marie Maynard Daly embarked on her academic journey at Queens College, where she graduated magna cum laude. She quickly followed this achievement with a master's degree from New York University. In 1947, she earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University, where her dissertation focused on the mechanisms of the products formed by the action of pancreatic amylase, an important enzyme in the digestive system.

Daly's research career was distinguished by her focus on understanding the chemistry of the nucleus of cells, and particularly on the effects of cholesterol on the mechanisms of heart disease. Her work provided crucial insights into how fats are linked to heart health and was among the first to point out the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries, thus contributing to a better understanding of heart attacks.

Beyond her scientific achievements, Daly was deeply committed to supporting minority students pursuing careers in science. Throughout her career, she worked tirelessly to address the barriers that minority students faced in education. Her advocacy extended into her professional roles, including teaching and mentoring positions at prestigious institutions.

Super Scientist Marie Maynard Daly

Marie Daly's story is an inspiring reminder that your background does not define your future. You may wonder, "I’m just one person; what impact can I really make?" But remember, Marie was one person too, and she significantly advanced our understanding of heart disease and broke crucial racial and gender barriers in science. Her life teaches us that with knowledge, resilience, and a strong will, anyone can influence profound change.

Remember, great changes often start with one individual's actions. Whether it's pioneering new scientific discoveries, inspiring future generations, or advocating for equality and education, your efforts count.

Marie’s journey illustrates that when you are passionate about your pursuits and relentless in your endeavors, you can indeed make monumental changes. What drives you? How will you use your unique talents to make a difference? Like Marie Maynard Daly, you possess the potential to be a trailblazer in whatever field you choose.

Just like her, you have the capability to act as a catalyst for change, to stand for what you believe in, and to leave a lasting impact. So, what will be your cause? How will you use your abilities to shape a better tomorrow? Just remember, every big discovery, every movement for change, starts with one person deciding to take that first, bold step forward.

Marie Maynard Daly's life and work serve as a powerful example of how dedication and hard work can lead to significant contributions in science. By engaging in this simple experiment, students can get a glimpse into the world of biochemical research and perhaps feel inspired by Daly’s pioneering spirit and achievements.

Extract Strawberry DNA

Be like MARIE Maynard Daly in this DIY Science Experiment:

DNA Extraction from Strawberries

Materials You'll Need

  • Fresh strawberries

  • Dish soap

  • Salt

  • Water

  • Rubbing alcohol (chilled)

  • A small plastic bag

  • A coffee filter or cheesecloth

  • A clear glass


  1. Prepare Strawberries: Place about three strawberries in the plastic bag and mash them thoroughly to break open their cells.

  2. Create Extraction Solution: Mix two teaspoons of dish soap, one teaspoon of salt, and half a cup of water in a separate container. Stir until the salt dissolves. This mixture helps to break down cell membranes and release DNA.

  3. Mix and Filter: Pour the soap mixture into the bag with the mashed strawberries. Seal and mix gently for about two minutes. Then, filter the mixture into the glass using the coffee filter or cheesecloth.

  4. Visualize DNA: Slowly pour cold rubbing alcohol into the glass, creating a layer above the strawberry mixture. Within a minute, white, cloudy strands (strawberry DNA) will appear in the alcohol layer.

Be inspired - be the inspiration

Have you read the Rocket Girls series yet? Its protagonist Sam Gold is a girl scientist just like you who solves mysteries using science.

Upload a picture of yourself with your copy of Rocket Girls or your Strawberry DNA extraction and tag our Instagram @RocketGirlsSci so you too can be acknowledged as a Rocket Girl!

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