Dr Asima Chatterjee was the first female chemist in India who is noted for her pioneering work in the medicinal chemistry industry, especially in the field of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). In 1941, she became the first person to synthesise progesterone. Dr Chatterjee was also the first woman who was elected President of the Indian Chemical Society.Dr Chatterjee was born in West Bengal. Her father, Indra Narayan Mookerjee, worked as a lecturer at Calcutta University. She studied at Bethune College, Kolkata, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in 1930.She then did her Master of Science (MSc) in Chemistry from Presidency College, Kolkata under the guidance of Prof R B Ghosh and obtained first division with a gold medal in 1934.Dr Chatterjee started her career at Pune University, where she served as the professor and head of the Department of Chemistry. Later she joined Washington State University's Chemical Laboratory where she taught biochemistry and organic chemistry to undergraduates.Her Early Life and Family BackgroundDr Chatterjee was born on the 8th of January 1907, in Kolkata, India, to Indra Narayan Mookerjee and Bishnuramiah Mookerjee. Her father was a lecturer at the chemistry department of Calcutta University.He also founded an academic journal named 'Indian Chemical Journal'. Both her parents had a keen interest in reading and learning new things, which led to the development of such habits within Asima as well.Her EducationShe was a student at Bethune College where she studied for her BSc in Chemistry. She was a brilliant student and secured first class with a Gold Medal in her BSc examination.In 1934, she completed her MSc in Chemistry from Presidency College where she was awarded first class with a gold medal. In the same year, she completed her PhD in chemical kinetics.Her thesis had two parts: 'A comparative study of reactions involving the addition of phenylhydrazine and hydroxylamine to alpha-ethylbenzene and alpha-naphthyl benzene' and 'A study of the reactions involved in the dehydrogenation of Ni(CO)'.Career and AchievementsDr Chatterjee joined the Department of Chemistry at Pune University as an Assistant Professor in 1936. The department was headed by Dr V N Shinde, who became the Vice Chancellor of Pune University in 1939. She was appointed as the head of this department in 1945, a position she held till her retirement in 1969.She served as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Pune from 1959 to 1960. She also served at Kanpur for a brief period during 1975-1976 when she worked as a Professor at Kanpur College of Technology.She also worked at Washington State University from 1955 to 1960 where she taught biochemistry and organic chemistry to undergraduate students.Knowing about Dr Chatterjee is important to understand the contributions made by her in the field of medicinal chemistry.It was during her tenure as president of the Indian Chemical Society that she started a research programme to identify the properties of some unknown polyphenolic compounds extracted from natural sources. It was during this process that she discovered progesterone in 1941, which was then the first synthetic steroid.She also worked on many other projects related to the chemistry of biogenic amines and the chemical metabolism of prothrombin and haemoglobin.She is also known for her contribution to the area of biochemistry. She carried out many experiments to understand biological pathways such as glycolysis, citric acid cycle, oxidation reactions, transport reactions and carbohydrate metabolism.Her Awards and RecognitionIn 1970, Dr Chatterjee was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India.She was also awarded the Government of India Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) Award, the First Professorship of the University of Pune and many other awards such as The Best Research Paper Award by the Indian Academy of Science, The Sir C M Ghosh Gold Medal, The Raj Nivas Kher Award from Indian Chemical Society (1978), and President's Gold Medal from University of Pune.Dr Chatterjee is known to be one of India's first female chemists and her contribution to the industry has been significant.She was a very witty, cheerful person who loved to read and learn new things. Her contributions in the field of medicinal chemistry and biochemistry have made a difference in the field of medicine.An Inspiration for Women in STEMIn her early days, engineering and science were seen as the domain of men and were not considered for girls. She proved that girls can carry out any kind of work along with being a mother.She was a biologist and chemist and also took time to study other things like spiritualism, philosophy and art and was an ardent nature lover, too. She believed in hard work and would never neglect any practice because it didn't suit her schedule.Dr Chatterjee was one woman who took the initiative to be an active member in chemical societies and also a part of a teaching faculty. She also tried to educate rural people by giving lectures and demonstrations on scientific technology.With her means, she started a school for girls, which was discontinued when she joined the university as a professor.She had earned herself the title Mother of Indian Chemistry because she had students who are now well-known personalities in the industrial and educational sectors.He held many leadership positions in professional organisations such as Presidency College Alumni Association (President), Indian Chemical Society (President) and University Women's Association (Vice President).Her Remarkable Work in the Field of ChemistryDr Chatterjee was very fond of cycling. She was a also very sincere teacher, researcher and successful academician. She was always seen with her students and would always keep them engaged in conversations about their work or studies.Her love for nature is reflected in the fact that when she was an undergraduate student at Bethune College, she had written an essay on The effect of road dust in KolkataWhen it comes to chemistry, she has contributed in many ways:Dr Chatterjee was one of the first women to be appointed as a professor at a university. She also was one of the first female chemical scientists to research the chemical constituents of plants and animals.She paved way for other women who are now famous and successful in the medical, chemical and educational sectors.Dr Chatterjee has inspired millions of women who want to pursue careers in science but never had a chance due to social norms and assumptions in Indian society. Her work has set an example for many others to follow.ConclusionFrom winning a gold medal for her excellent performance at college to having a glorious career as a scientist and professor, Dr Asima Chatterjee has been a pioneer who paved the way for Indian women in STEM. She is truly an inspiration for young girls today who want to work in the field of science and leave a mark as inventors, scientists and researchers.FAQsWho is Dr Asima Chatterjee?She was the pioneering female chemist in India who is very notable for her famous works.She completed her PhD from the University of Kolkata in Chemical Kinetics.When did Dr Asima Chatterjee die?She died in 2006.What was Dr Asima Chatterjee notable for?She is notable for her immense contribution to the field of medicinal chemistry.What are Dr Asima Chatterjee's awards and recognition?She was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India. She was also awarded the Government of India Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) Award, the First Professorship of the University of Pune and many other awards such as The Best Research Paper Award by the Indian Academy of Science, The Sir C M Ghosh Gold Medal, The Raj Nivas Kher Award from Indian Chemical Society (1978), and President's Gold Medal from University of Pune.