Connecting my Ideal Circuit
In celebration of International Women and Girls in Science day (Feb 11, 2020), I share my science story with the hope that I may continue to inspire and challenge the norms of today. The efforts of yesterday's women must be celebrated, learned from, and expanded upon to ensure that the women (and all people) of tomorrow can prosper in an Age that is not defined by who we are, but by what we are able to achieve together. The challenges of the 21st century are diverse, interdisciplinary, and must be approached differently than the challenges of the 20th century, and I am excited for what is in store as we move #WomeninScience and also #Science forward.
My Science Story: Connecting my Ideal Circuit
My excitement for science started young, remained steady in growth, and became my passion as I pursued opportunities and projects that allowed me to connect my ideal circuit: enthusiasm in scientific discovery, experience in STEM fields, leadership among my peers, and development in emotional and professional intelligence.
Enthusiasm in Scientific Discovery: Room to Learn and Explore
Science always spoke to me as a place of comfort, even when I was young. My grandfather bought me a RadioShack Electronics Learning Lab around my 11th birthday and I was intrigued, mystified, and absolutely fascinated. I completed and mastered every project including building a timer, which allowed me the opportunity to create a digital display. Fast forward to middle school, learning about the science of weather clouds and pressure fronts had me sitting at the edge of my seat. In high school, I changed directions declaring I would cure cancer and was enamored with biology: the complexity and functionality of cancer cells, medical treatments, and possibilities to create and design avenues for recovery.
Experience in STEM Fields: Encouragement to Pursue Education/Technical Training
Fate had other plans when I went to register for college classes, Biology 101 was full and I thought I had missed my chance to be a biomedical engineer. Turns out I closed one door and several others opened. The Department Chairs of both Physics and Chemistry greeted me with open arms – full of encouragement. I enjoyed the fundamental connection of chemistry and physics so much I eventually became a PhD materials scientist, synthesizing, processing, characterizing, and understanding a specific material's properties. I learned so much about it that sometimes I could predict how it would behave before running experiments, I was able to give advice to others, and started to build a community around the subject I enjoyed. Nowadays, I tend to notice myself encouraging others to continue to pursue their education and/or technical training through experience (hands on work). On any given day you may hear me telling anyone and everyone, “Everyday objects in our cell phones, airplane wings, coffee mugs, trash bags, and lotions/powders are materials we can use, study, and improve! Can you believe it, it’s right at our fingertips, Materials Science”!
All of these experiences have science in common, but more than science, I attribute my commitment to a STEM field to 1) general interest, 2) availability and passion of my mentors, 3) capacity to relate science to my everyday life and the lives of those around me, and 4) realization and confronting the idea that not everyone would be proud of me, nor expect me to ever succeed, in what I chose to do in life.
Emotional Intelligence and Professional Leadership: Dealing with Failure
The stigmas surrounding emotion are very apparent and could be resolved by the teaching of how to handle, expose, and target emotions for specific situations. One of my goals for 2020 is reaching a new level of emotional intelligence (a field I have been interested in and devoted to learning about since attending a seminar at Penn State in 2013). Another one is failure, and failure is a critical part of the scientific process. Therefore, methods to develop and train the scientific process at an early age are needed, encouraging the pursuit of experiments that fail. Methods could include documentation of failure in literature and in conversation, showing how failures lead to overall understanding, and how removing fear of failure (thus allowing creativity!) in the scientific thought process can enable breakthrough discoveries.
To improve upon women in science, minorities in science, and expand to those who currently think they cannot reach or achieve a certain level of science knowledge, an ideal circuit is needed: results-driven, inspired and creative research, education through example, mentorship through teaching (in and out of a classroom), and encouragement at every level, regardless of background.
Yes, women want to be scientists, engineers, technicians, clinicians, computer programmers, and mathematicians, too.
-Happiness in Handfulls