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Women Leaders in STEM Spotlight: Adriana Bankston

CEO and principal legislative analyst encourages women in STEM to support one another and develop a community of allies

Michileen Bryan

Michileen Bryan is the online events producer for Lab Manager. She can be reached at

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In recognition of International Women’s Day today, March 8, we are sharing the careers and experiences of several women leaders in science. These accomplished women will also give presentations and host Q&A sessions during Lab Manager’s Women Leaders in Science Digital Summit, taking place March 14-15. This free digital event will provide career development guidance to women working in scientific organizations and offer advice on how to address challenges, reach goals, and command a room.

Adriana Bankston, PhD, is CEO of Journal of Science Policy and Governance, as well as a principal legislative analyst at the University of California Office of Federal Governmental Relations. Prior to this position, she was a policy and advocacy fellow at the Society for Neuroscience. In recognition of her contributions to the field, Bankston was named among the Top 20 in 2022 Advocacy practitioners by the Advocacy Association and awarded the inaugural 2022 ARIS Emerging Broader Impacts Leader Award. She earned her PhD in biochemistry, cell, and developmental biology from Emory University.

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Adriana Bankston, PhD

Bankston will present on the topic of “Academic Systemic Change for a Better Society” at the Women Leaders in Science Summit. 

Q: What inspired you to pursue a scientific career? 

A: I grew up in a scientific family and have always had an intellectual curiosity. I obtained my PhD in biochemistry, cell, and developmental biology from Emory University, and pursued a brief postdoc before deciding to take my talents elsewhere. My current role focuses on research policy, where my background and prior gained skills come in handy.

Q: What's the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your professional journey so far? 

A: That you should always strive to learn from others and to better ourselves professionally, regardless of where we are in our careers. I currently still feel like somewhat of a beginner in my field, but there is a lot of value to re-inventing yourself regardless.

Q: What's one key point of advice you have for fellow women in STEM? 
Believe in yourself and find people who are willing to support you, and always strive to lift up those coming behind you or who may need more help. Strive to be part of a community, but also work on improving yourself consistently. 

Q: Can you explain what you will be presenting on during the Women Leaders Summit? 
I will discuss ways in which laboratory managers at universities and national laboratories can contribute to academic systemic change, internal and external reforms in research needed to prepare the next generation of scientists for career success, which specific skills and competencies the next generation needs to learn, and how the research ecosystem can benefit.

Q: What challenges do you still see for women in STEM? How can women best advocate for themselves? How can peer allies best support them? 
Women are still under-represented in many scientific areas, as well as fewer women as you move up the career ladder in research, in particular at the faculty level. This points to a larger issue that science needs to be overall more diverse and inclusive on a broader level. Women can advocate for themselves by standing up for their opinions and beliefs, and being grateful for how others helped them get to where they are today and seeking to give back. Peer allies can support by lending a listening ear and standing up for other women within group settings.

Q: Do you feel you have equal opportunities as your male counterparts? 
For the most part yes, although the issues are with different career levels where there is less decision-making power as opposed to other levels, and that is true in every industry. Women in science policy are pretty well represented I believe, at least it seems to be a pretty female dominated field, but it would be interesting if someone did that analysis.

Q: Are there any valuable resources you recommend for women just entering the workforce in a STEM-related field? 

A: Depending on their interests, I would recommend getting involved with the Association for Women in Science to meet and network with other women with similar interests and backgrounds and, the American Association for the Advancement of Science to learn more about how their research can be applied to policy and societal impact. 

These responses reflect Adriana’s personal views and not the view of their employer.

To learn more about Adriana Bankston or the Women Leaders in Science Summit, visit: