The Smithsonian will feature neon orange statues of female scientists in March. (Credit: Smithsonian)
The Smithsonian will feature neon orange statues of female scientists in March. (Credit: Smithsonian)

Miriam Fuchs decided she wanted to be an astrophysicist when she was in fifth grade, but her dream almost did not come true. 

“I felt like I was way too outgoing and creative to work in STEM,” she said in her exhibit bio. But she reconnected with the field in college, when her time at an astronomy research lab opened her up to the creative possibilities of a career that linked programming with outer space. 

Today, Fuchs is a Telescope System Specialist at East Asian Observatory in Hawaii — and she is one of 120 female scientists and innovators who are being honored with a life-sized statue in the nation’s capital. 

In March for Women’s History Month, 3D-printed, neon-orange statues depicting women making strides in STEM fields will stand on the grounds of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. 

The exhibit, titled “IfThenSheCan,” is a collaboration between The Smithsonian Institution and Lyda Hill Philanthropies. The project is focused on “fostering an environment where all girls know they can make an indelible mark on our future,” Ellen Stofan, the Smithsonian’s under secretary for science and research said in a statement announcing the exhibit. It is slated to be the largest collection of statues of women ever assembled. 

The women who are being honored — all currently working in STEM — have careers in fields that span physics, medicine and quantum computing. They include Jessica Nicole Esquivel, one of the few Black women in America with a PhD in physics; Monica Rho, a physician for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team; and Vanessa Hill, a trailblazing media entrepreneur who produces shows, documentaries and other content that explore neuroscience and psychology in an accessible way. 

Handpicked by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the women were chosen for their leadership and commitment to inspire other young female scientists.

“We are excited to highlight the work of these fame-changing STEM innovators and help expand the narrative about who is leading in these fields,” Smithsonian official Rachel Goslins said in a statement.

Each statue will feature a QR code that allows visitors to learn the personal tales of each woman. Many of the statues have already traveled to both Dallas and New York, where a few could be seen at the Central Park Zoo to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. 

They will land on the National Mall as part of “Women’s Futures Month,” a month-long celebration featuring both in-person and virtual events.