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Winter 1999

The Scientist and the Cure
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On top of this, Giorgi has also published countless papers in top academic journals, served on the boards of prestigious scientific organizations, including the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and been an inspiration to those around her. "She's devoted to the issue of HIV and AIDS research and trying to move it toward a cure or better treatments or a vaccine," says Charlie Price, the project manager in Giorgi's lab. "She wants us all to get there and it shows."

Giorgi also stands out simply because she is that rare find: a prominent female scientist. "The way academics works, unless you've gone to the top and made some huge discovery, your work is always talked about as 'less than,'" says Anton. "The field of medicine is very competitive. To just keep publishing and keep yourself in the forefront of the field is an enormous accomplishment. Then to actually contribute some leading ideas, which Janis has several times, is just awesome."


Janis Giorgi grew up in a happy, nontraditional household, in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., the youngest of two girls. Her father was an engineer and salesman in the steel industry, and her mother had a thriving career managing dress shops. Giorgi's parents hadn't originally intended to have children, and by the time she was born, in May 1947, her father was 50 and retired. It didn't matter. "My parents loved each other, and they loved us," she said.

Giorgi's mother was the breadwinner in the family, while her father kept house and cooked dinner every night and was there when the girls got home form school. Although stay-at-home dads were even more rare at the time than working moms, Giorgi didn't think anything of it. Having a mother who earned money made a positive impression on her. She later learned that her father had been forced out of his job over an ethical stand. "He refused to sell some steel the company wanted him to," she recalled. "It wasn't made for the purpose it was being sold for, and it would have harmed people."

Giorgi may have been a girl growing up in the conservative 1950s, but her parents didn't treat her like one. They encouraged their daughter to excel. As a child, Giorgi enjoyed watching her father work with tools, and when she was 7, he gave her an electric set. In high school, she was one of only two girls in her advanced chemistry and physics classes. In the summer of 10th grade, she took her first class in hematology. "My dad didn't go for the idea of us not doing anything 'useful' over the summer," she jokes.

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