Maria Dean is a resident of Cedar Rapids and has served as a professor of chemistry with biochemical research at Coe College for twenty seven years. Her research involves the study of sea worm biocements that has applications in protein chemistry and unique materials. Dean has presented and led several youth-focused events that encourage the use of science, math and technology, including presentations at the Science Station, National Chemistry Week demonstration, Coe’s Playground of Science, elementary school science visits, and served as a judge for the Eastern Iowa Science Fair. As a graduate student, Maria was introduced to the American Association of University Women (AAUW) which served as her motivating force for launching Open Minds, Open Doors, an annual conference designed to encourage girls to explore STEM career pathways and engage in STEM-related curriculum. Over the past twenty four years the conference has hosted over 12,000 young women.