Welcome, CRISPR-Curious Friends!

Dorothy Semenow

Wikipedia describes me as “…an American chemist, psychologist, and women’s rights activist……best known for becoming the first woman to earn a PhD from the California Institute of Technology.”

I’ve tenaciously pursued my goals, and have devoted my life to increasing science literacy, advocating for civil justice, and serving as a catalyst to help people improve their lives.


Advantageous education got me to a doctoral degree twice—thankfully, with my funny bone still intact.

At Mount Holyoke, a women’s college, I earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree, Summa cum Laude, in Chemistry, then catapulted into a men’s world, where I became the first woman to earn a degree from Caltech (Ph.D. in Chemistry, minor in Biology).

I also have a Ph.D. in Psychology from Claremont Graduate University; my psychology research and practice focused on traits related to creativity, along with psychology of the self, women’s issues, and strategies to overcome discrimination against women and minorities in the world of science.

As an undergraduate, I won an American Chemical Society Student Award and a Phi Beta Kappa key.

After college, I held Mt. Holyoke College Skinner and National Science Foundation (NSF) Predoctoral Fellowships, and five Postdoctoral Fellowships, funded by either NSF or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

I also received a fellowship and four subsequent invitations for stays at Blue Mountain Center for Writers, Artists, and Activists.


The second wave of the women’s movement during the 1970s brought the opportunity to consult for the leadership of Los Angeles N.O.W.—heady times for those of us who had been living feminism without naming it.

From lonely outliers, we suddenly became role models; and instead of viewing ourselves as oddballs, we proudly claimed our new status as “Ahead of Our Time.” (I’ve stayed hitched to the “Ahead” ever since!)


All of the above experiences, along with childhood board game play, plus creation of outdoor games, crafts, plays, and basement laugh-in-the-dark rides have brought me to create edutainment vehicles—namely, board games:

The first, The Game of Psychoanalysis, developed with my colleague and good friend, Bernice Augenbraun.

Then came DNA Ahead Game & More™ (2017), aided by the splendid art of Jane Burns.

And now, I’ve completed and expect to soon publish, the CRISPR Ahead Picture Tour™, a book for curious readers and art appreciators, ages 13-113.

After five years of what felt like a long distance relationship with CRISPR, it’s been good to finally create the Tour. With CRISPR, it was love at first sight when Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna published the 2012 landmark paper that launched the CRISPR revolution. I rushed to add CRISPR’s amazing exploits to the DNA Ahead Game I was creating at that time. As an instant avid fan, I tracked CRISPR’s frequent headline appearances, and even dreamt that we exchanged tweets!

Now, I’m delighted that I can tell you about CRISPR’s continually expanding reach and how you can have a say in what CRISPR uses become available to affect the planet, your life, and the lives of your descendants.

What Makes Me Tick

As a kid, my favorite surprises ranged from “coloring books” in which colors hatched upon painting with water, to magic crystals converted into splendid icicle castles by dropping into water. Later, the colors and crystals I could make happen in the lab hooked me on chemistry.

But it wasn’t until I wrote my first non-science piece that the big Aha struck. Before that, I’d written my share of science articles about my research, always in the required third person—”the mixture was added, stirred, heated, filtered, etc.”—and hence bound to the passive voice universally damned as dull by writing teachers.

But this was to be a book chapter entitled, “Work & Me, Woman,” about my personal experiences. This was, of course, once upon a time before Facebook, blogs, and selfies, and I had never written autobiographically before. As I viewed my first day’s output with surprise and delight, the wonder of it overcame me—that it had laid buried within me, and would have gone undiscovered, had I not dug it out. (I’d never thought of my childhood creations that way.)


Since then, I’ve regarded such digging up, powered by my unconscious, as the mother lode of my being. I call my unconscious “Unc;” she is constantly tossing her two cents up into my conscious. Unc keeps me laughing, often giggling, and prods me to imagine the unimaginable. When I’m stuck on some problem, Unc streams the solution with my morning shower. Sometimes, when I’m obsessed with a project I’m creating, the unitasker in me takes over. During such stretches, Unc extracts from all my experiences—whatever I see, hear, taste, smell, touch, feel, or think—every morsel that might be applied to my current project! Unc bestows many more priceless benefits, which I may write about later.

Dorothy Semenow Ph.D - Creator and Author of CRISPR Ahead™ Picture Book
Dorothy Semenow

Brewing Up The Tour

Dorothy Semenow, chemist and psychologist

Molecule Sleuth

Dorothy Semenow, PhD Psychology, PhD Chemistry

Mind Sleuth

Full Speed Ahead,

Dorothy Semenow