Brecca Gaffney, postdoctoral research fellow in the Program in Physical Therapy was announced as a recipient of the 2018 For Women in Science Fellowship, which annually awards five female postdoctoral scientists grants of $60,000 each to advance their research. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the program, which has recognized 75 postdoctoral female scientists with over $3.8 million since 2003.
The program is centered on L’Oréal’s belief that the world needs science and science needs women, because women in science have the power to change the world. The For Women in Science program provides funding and support during a critical time in female scientists’ careers. Although the number of women in science is increasing, there remains a “leaky pipeline,” with significant career drop-off happening during the years between postdoc and tenure track. In addition to providing vital grant money, For Women in Science fellows receive mentorship, career coaching, and media training.
Brecca Gaffney is a mechanical engineer and postdoctoral research fellow in the Program in Physical Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Gaffney uses biomechanics, or the engineering-based study of the mechanics of human movement, to understand how motion affects the human body. By utilizing musculoskeletal modeling, her research aims to improve treatment for patients who are seeking rehabilitation for an injury or movement disorder. The L’Oréal USA For Women in Science fellowship will provide funding for Gaffney to pursue the link between chronic hip pain and the development of low back pain and to hire a female Biomechanical Engineering undergraduate research assistant. As part of her fellowship, Gaffney will also partner with the non-profit Mission: St. Louis by serving as a Beyond School mentor, where she works with low-income female high school students in math, science, and reading proficiency. Gaffney, 30, received a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Denver, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Denver and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines. Born and raised in Colorado, Gaffney played collegiate basketball and now lives in St. Louis, Missouri where she enjoys running, hiking, and spending time with her dog Gryff.