Biochemist Mary Sue Coleman is a rarity--a woman who has shattered the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier that allows women to glimpse the peak of professional success but prevents them from attaining it. Coleman, who is leaving her position as vice chancellor for graduate studies and research at the University of North Carolina to become provost at the University of New Mexico, thinks she is lucky.

She says she "sidestepped" her way past gender discrimination by being in the right place at the right time. Her chance to move into administration came in 1982 when the director of the fledgling cancer center at the University of Kentucky, where she was an assistant professor, suddenly resigned. In her favor was the fact that Coleman was one of the few researchers there to have funding from, and contacts within, the National Cancer Institute. At the same time, however,...

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