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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Special Emphasis Program Manager -

Federal Women's Program





Research Leader


Carl Hayden Bee Research Center        

Honey Bee Research Unit

2000 East Allen Road

Tucson, AZ  85719-1596


Phone:  (520) 670-6380, x104

Fax:  (520) 670-6493 


Greetings from Tucson and welcome to the PWA- Federal Women's Program website.  As the Special Emphasis Program Manager, I raise awareness of the contributions of women scientists in the past and present. I also help promote an interest in science in young people, and provide opportunities for elementary and high school students to have hands-on experiences in conducting scientific research. If you have suggestions, questions, or would like help finding resources to increase opportunities for women in scientific fields, please contact me. 




Dr. Allene R. Jeanes


The first woman inducted in the ARS Science Hall of Fame was Dr. Allene R. Jeanes in 1999.  Dr. Jeanes was born July 19, 1906, in Waco, Texas. She received her B.A. (1928) from BaylorUniversity, her M.A. (1929) from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. (1938) in Organic Chemistry from the University of Illinois. She was employed as head science teacher (1930-1935) at AthensCollege in Alabama and later as a Chemistry Instructor (1936-1937) at the University of Illinois. She served as a corn industries research foundation fellow (1938-1940) with both the NIH and USPHS. She joined the USDA as a Research Chemist at the Northern Regional Research Center in 1941.


Dr. Jeanes' research focused on carbohydrate chemistry. Two of her major accomplishments include the development of Dextran and Xantham gum. Dextran is a complex branched polysaccharide. She and a colleague developed methods to produces Dextran and convert it into synthetic blood plasma. The fluid that resulted from her team's efforts was used on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam to save countless lives. The compound is still widely used in microsurgery to decrease vascular thrombosis (blood clots).  Xantham gum is a polysaccharide that most of us probably consume every day. The compound is used as a thickener to produce creamy textures in foods. Xanthan is used in dairy products and salad dressings. The smooth creamy texture of ice cream is due to Xantham because it prevents ice crystals from forming. Another use for Xanthan gum is in cosmetic products. One advantage of Xanthan gum is that a little goes an incredibly long way. Cosmetic manufacturers add a very small amount of Xanthan gum to their cream-based products to keep the individual ingredients from separating.

During her career, Dr. Jeanes produced over 60 publications and received 10 patents. She was a member of the American Chemical Society, Sigma Xi, and Iota Sigma Pi. She received the Distinguished Service Award (1953) from the USDA; the Garvan Medal (1956) from the American Chemical Society; and the Federal Woman's Service Award (1962) from the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Dr. Jeanes passed away in 1995. Her contributions are part of the history of science, chemistry and ARS research and her work continues to impact our lives today.  

Dr. Janice (Lilly) Miller

Dr. Miller is a native of Mentor, Kansas and received her bachelor's, Masters and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees from KansasStateUniversity in 1960, 1962, and 1963 respectively. She is a diplomat of the AmericanCollege of Veterinary Pathologists and possesses special competence and abilities in the diagnosis of bovine viral, mycobacterial and prion associated diseases. Dr. Miller joined the staff at the NationalAnimalDiseaseCenter, in Ames, Iowa in 1972 as a veterinary medical officer. During her tenure, she has conducted research on a variety of food animal diseases including retrovirus and herpes infections of cattle, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and mycobacterium infections of ruminants. She has received many prestigious awards such as the Woman Veterinarian of the Year in 1977 given by the Women's Veterinary Medical Association, the ARS Distinguished Scientist in 1988, the USDA Distinguished Service Award in 1990, and the American Feed Industry Award from the AVMA in 1999. She is a Distinguished Alumni Fellow of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In 1999, Dr. Miller was elected to the National Academy of Science. Of her many professional accomplishments, perhaps the most noteworthy is her discovery of the bovine leukemia virus, an accomplishment which was featured on the cover of Cancer Research in February of 1984. She is a leader in investigating the biology, causes, and transmission of bovine leukemia and other serious diseases of ruminants. She developed tests for bovine leukemia, bovine tuberculoses, bovine immunodeficiency disease, bovine tuberculosis, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, scrapie and chronic wasting disease of deer and elk. Those tests greatly reduce the threat of spread to U.S. livestock production and exports. For her outstanding contributions to veterinary medicine and the livestock industry, Dr. Miller was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.

Dr. Ruth Rogan Benerito


One of the foremost inventors of the 20th century is a woman in the ARS Hall Fame: Dr. Ruth Rogan Benerito. Dr. Benerito's most well-known contributions are in the field of cellulose chemistry. She invented wash-and-wear cotton fabrics while working at the USDA Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans in the 1950s. Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester were invented in the 1930s and 1940s, and they made life much easier because they did not need to be ironed. While the invention of synthetic fibers was good news for anyone who had to do laundry, it was bad news for cotton farmers. Dr. Benerito found a way to chemically treat the surface of cotton that led not only to wrinkle-resistant fabric but also to stain- and flame-resistant fabrics. It has been said that Benerito saved the cotton industry.

Born in 1916, Benerito grew up in New Orleans as Ruth Rogan; the third oldest of six children. In an age when girls did not usually go on to higher education, her father John Edward Rogan, a civil engineer and her mother, Bernadette Elizardi, an artist made sure their daughters received the same education available to boys.  Ruth was a brilliant child with an aptitude for science and mathematics. She completed high school at age 14 and entered SophieNewcombCollege, the women's college of Tulane, when she was fifteen. She earned her B.S. degree in chemistry (with minors in mathematics and physics) in 1935 at age 19.  She graduated from Tulane during the Great Depression and hoped to do research. Jobs were scarce so she taught high school in Jefferson Parish, west of New Orleans. While working as a teacher, Dr. Benerito took night classes to earn her master's degree from Tulane. During World War II she taught college classes, and after the war she earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago. She married Frank Benerito in 1950 and went to work for the ARS. During the Korean War she developed a way to give fat intravenously to patients who were too sick to eat-a method used to feed seriously wounded soldiers.

Over more than fifty years, and through more than fifty patents, Ruth Rogan Benerito used her broad scientific training to transform the cotton, wood and paper industries. In later years, Dr. Benerito taught classes part-time at TulaneUniversity and at the University of New Orleans. She retired from the USDA in 1986 but continued teaching until 1997. In 2002, at the age of 86, she received the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award for her work on textiles and her commitment to education. She was inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame in 2004 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.

Dr. Virginia Holsinger

Dr. Virginia H. Holsinger was Research Leader of the Dairy Products Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC), USDA, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. Dr. Holsinger, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, received her B.S. degree in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary in 1958 and her Ph.D. in Food Science and Nutrition in 1980 from the OhioStateUniversity.  She began her research career as an analytical chemist with the USDA/ARS Dairy Products Laboratory in Washington, D.C., and transferred to ERRC in 1974 where she led a program on fundamental and applied aspects of the chemistry and technology of milk and dairy foods until her retirement in October 1999.  Dr. Holsinger was well known for several accomplishments. She developed a whey-soy drink mix with the nutritional quality and storage stability characteristics necessary to serve as a milk replacer in international food donation programs. She was part of the team that demonstrated that enzyme treatment of milk could make it more digestible by a new consumer market, the lactose-intolerant population.  Technology transfer of this research led to the commercialization of enzyme-treated milk (LactAid) and other products.  She also developed a low-lactose milk based beverage by enzyme fortification of milk powder for military field rations.  She pioneered methods for the quantitative assessment of the rheological properties of cheeses.  Her research also led to the development of a natural mozzarella cheese with a 50 percent reduced fat content resulting in its incorporation into the National School Lunch Program.  She also led a team for the development of an encapsulated spray dried milk fat for use as a shortening in baked goods.  Her work with the Farm Service Agency and the US Agency for International Development led to the development and implementation of an extruded nutrient-based grain blend formulation for use in emergency feeding situations which reconstituted with water to provide a nutritious porridge.  In the course of her career, Dr. Holsinger authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific papers.  She received several prestigious awards for her research work, including the Col. Rohland A. Isker Award, R&D Associates for Military Food and Packaging Systems, 1983; the Distinguished Service Award of the Division of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, American Chemical Society, 1986; the Agricultural Research Service Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award in 1992, the Lifetime Achievement Award, Women in Science and Engineering, presented by the National Science Foundation in 1995; and the International Dairy Foods Association Dairy Foods Processing Award.  In 1987, Dr. Holsinger and her team also received the Industrial Achievement Award from the Institute of Food Technologists and the USDA Distinguished Service Award for research. 


Dr. Holsinger was inducted into the ARS Hall of Fame in 2000.  Regrettably, Dr. Holsinger died on Friday, September 4th, 2009. 

Dr. Janet King

Dr. King is a nutrition scientist. She is internationally recognized for her research on energy and zinc metabolism in adults, especially in pregnant women. Her work profoundly influenced our understanding of maternal and infant health. She showed in a groundbreaking study that maternal nutritional status-particularly fat stores-at the inception of pregnancy strongly affects the pregnancy's outcome. This led to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies establishing differing weight-gain guidelines for underweight, normal-range and overweight expectant mothers.

Dr. King came to ARS from the University of California-Berkeley in 1995. While with the ARS, Dr. King served as director of the Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California. She left the ARS in 2003 to join the Children's Hospital Oakland, California Research Institute. She holds professorial appointments at the University of California's Berkeley and Davis campuses and serves on numerous national and international committees for nutrition and human health. She is member of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine and Chair of their Food and Nutrition Board. She chaired the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, which guided revision of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Pyramid.

Dr. King has won many prestigious awards for her research. She was the recipient of the Excellence in Research Award of the American Dietetic Association (1999), the Distinguished Achievement Citation from Iowa State University (1998), the Lederle Award and the Borden Award from the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (1989; 1997), the International Prize in Modern Human Nutrition from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland (1996), and the Agnes Higgins Award in Maternal Nutrition from the American Public Health Association (1993). She has published over 200 articles and trained over 50 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. She was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.





Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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