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New assistant professor finds male colleagues welcoming

Creation of a Council for the Advancement of Women is perhaps the most recent example of WSU’s commitment to expanding opportunities for women. And Sanja Roje, new assistant professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry (IBC), is among the most recent faculty additions to help the university meet that commitment, in particular in the physical sciences disciplines.

“Since my arrival in August 2003, my experience has been very positive,” Roje said.

The plant physiology graduate program, of which she is a member, consists of six women and 19 men faculty. That’s 24 percent women, just about in the middle of the 10 to 45 percent range a recent national study found among assistant professors working at the nation’s top research universities in the sciences, mathematics and engineering.

Some women in that study reported severe shunning from their male colleagues. Roje’s experience, however, has been nothing like that.

“I feel very welcome,” she said. “My faculty colleagues have helped me settle in by lending me some of their laboratory and office space, as well as equipment, while my laboratory was furnished. They advised me on how to prepare grant proposals and deal with other duties.”

Roje earned her degrees in molecular biology, molecular biophysics and plant metabolism. The long-term objective of her research at WSU is to increase the content of the vitamins riboflavin and folate in crops so that people get more in their diets.

Folate deficiency, common even in developed countries, has been linked to anemia, birth defects and vascular disease, she said. Riboflavin deficiency has been linked to vascular disease, pregnancy complications and age-related cataracts.

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