Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Ghilane Bragagnolo, Research engineer

Ghilane Bragagnolo

Research engineer

McLaren Automotive- University of Surrey


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I love my job as a researcher, I love thinking I am making the difference, working on understanding something that it’s still unknown. A car is not just something nice to look at, but behind that cool design there is the work of a team that aims to improve the car performances and this requires the understanding of a wide number of parameters such as materials, aerodynamics and electronics.

When someone asks me what do I do for living and I say that I’m a mechanical engineer, I’ve always found funny to see their surprised and full of merci faces! People get scared when they hear the word ‘engineer’. Honestly, I quite like the look of admiration painted on people faces!! but at the same time I would like them to understand that it’s not just a bunch of numbers and math, but it can actually be quite fun! This is the reason I became a STEM ambassador, to transmit what I do to the public, starting to children who have to believe that engineering is not scary but something everyone can do and enjoy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My doctorate project of course! For now, it is the most interesting project I have been working on. I am focusing in crush structures, composite materials and modeling/simulation techniques. This is not just a very challenging area but it is also very exciting! I consider myself lucky to be working with such a great company and to be able to touch by hand the results of my work.

Role models and heroes:
My parents. My dad is not just a model for me but he is my one and only hero. He built his own company from zero, as self learner, and he is the smartest person I have ever met. My mum is, on the other hand, one of the strongest women I know.

I would like to mention some of the women I heard about, who have a very good job and at the same time are good mothers, who take their children to school and go to their lacrosse and football games. However, I have never met one of those yet, and I am quite sceptic about it. But it is for sure something I would like to aspire to.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I enjoy the challenge of being a researcher and at the same time developing professional skills thanks to the link with the company. I am half way through my doctorate and I have already learnt so much. Every day is unique, you can be in the labs, in the office, at conferences or at meetings. With every day comes a new challenge and that certainly keeps things interesting.

During my last high school year, while I was choosing which degree to pursue, my mum was concerned about her daughter getting into in a male-dominated area. One of my teachers told her: ‘ She can do anything she wants, tell her she can and she will’. Sometimes, hearing from the outside that you can do something it really helps you to believe you can. I like going into schools talking to young people about my career. I like to think that if they meet someone they admire and aspire to, they can push to get there.

Advice for future STEMinists?
It is such a rewarding career that you will forget how difficult and stressful it had been to get there! Do what you love and make of a job your passion, it will feel more like a hobby than a job!

Favorite website or app: LinkedIn

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jennifer Davis, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy at Planar Systems

Jennifer Davis

Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy at Planar Systems

Planar Systems


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I pursued a degree in the liberal arts, studying history with the intention of writing and teaching, when a mentor of mine challenged me. He said “before you go out to write history, why don’t you make some history first?” I got an internship in college at a software start-up and that started my career in high technology, which has led to me to positions at Intel and now Planar. I enjoy the pace of the business, the innovation that I am surrounded by, and the personal opportunities for growth.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
It is hard to choose just one! One that comes to mind is working on the architectural video wall product that Planar launched a few years ago called Planar® Mosaic™. This was a new category of product that required coordination and influence around the globe: with suppliers, specifiers, and customers. To see the projects that people are now doing with this video product is very satisfying as they look like they walked out of my early strategy presentations when the idea was first pitched and green lighted. In this process, I was able to use my skills of visioning, influence, teamwork, and strategy and to see something brand new come to market.

Role models and heroes:
I have had the pleasure to work with many great leaders throughout my career and to be influenced by many professionals through their books, blogs, speeches, and podcasts. As a woman in technology, I admire what Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg, and Marissa Mayer have done to pave the way for women in top roles. I have gotten great advice from my colleagues and managers over the years and am learning things each week from my own team and peers at Planar. And I remember one of my first managers, Roxanna, who taught those of us who worked in her retail store the power of servant leadership.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love innovation. I love doing things never before imagined. I like being on the cutting-edge of technology and helping to lead people to it’s true benefits. I like working on smart, capable teams who are empathetic advocates for our customers.

Advice for future STEMinists?
First off, you can have a wonderful career in STEM if you apply yourself, persevere, and seek out feedback along the way. Don’t shy away from being a subject matter expert, with hands-on and in-depth experience in a particular area of study.

Favorite website or app:
I use Evernote. I use it on my desktop, phone, and on my smart watch. When a blog idea strikes me for atjenniferdavis.com or for the Planar blog, with the touch of a button I can jot down the note for future reference.

Twitter: @jenniferdavis

Site: atjenniferdavis.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Rebecca Lobo, Postdoctoral Fellow

Rebecca Lobo

Postdoctoral Fellow

University of California-Davis


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My high school chemistry teacher was so passionate. I remember sitting in her class and thinking “This is so much fun!”. That’s what inspired me to be an undergraduate major in chemistry. As I studied the subject more, I realized how useful and practical chemistry was in its application to everyday life. I loved being the person who could translate food labels, decipher the ingredients in a lotion and figure out how to get old ink off a dry erase board using lotion (yay organic chem!!).

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My most interesting project to date is my postdoc work on HuangLongBing (HLB) disease. It can be likened to the Ebola of the plant world. It is caused by a bacterium that kills citrus trees and has slashed citrus production in Florida by 50% already. There is no cure and, to date, no reliable early detection test.

I head a collaborative project to develop an early detection test for HLB. I am able to use my chemistry, coding and management skills to help save citrus! How cool is that?

Role models and heroes:
My current professor, Dr. Carolyn Slupsky
Dr. Robert Cardiff
Isaiah Hankel
Cassey Ho

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love being able to make a difference in society.
I love being able to understand and explain chemistry.
It makes me feel kickass, like I can do anything, because really, if I set my mind to it, I can!

Advice for future STEMinists?
You can achieve anything as long as you believe in yourself.

Ignore people who tell you you cannot do something or who put you down. Usually that means they are threatened by you.

Women operate differently than men. You are not less talented/weird/not cut it for science just because you communicate or approach problems differently. Look around the room. You may just be the minority (in lots of different ways) and your mentors and peers may not understand you. Embrace your differences, delve deep into them, understand them and make them your strengths.

Favorite website or app:
Can I go with favorite software? Mathematica!

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Ruth Ford, Electronics Technician

Ruth Ford

Electronics Technician

U.S. Coast Guard



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I love to be challenged and I love to explore and discover the world around me. I have had very strong role models in my life and have always been pushed to better myself. I pretty much followed in my father’s footsteps and chose to go into the military and after trying a few different carrier paths, I found my true love of troubleshooting.

Before joining the Coast Guard I worked as a bank teller. One day our coin counter stopped working, we were all very distraught because counting coins was not anyone’s favorite pastime. So I decided I would try to “fix” it; much to my boss’s dismay I completely disassembled the mechanism to try and find the root cause. It was a disaster! So after the technician was called in to fix it, I found myself asking him a million questions and spent 8 hours learning about a single system. I learned a lot that day and found my true calling.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I was entrusted to work on a multibillion dollar system for the Coast Guard. It was a inter-agency project and I trailblazed the entire field of intelligence technology for the Coast Guard. I can be seen in the Oct 2014 edition of the Journal of Electronic Defense (JED) magazine for the Association of Old Crows and was awarded the Military Service Award. I was also nominated for the 7th Annual AFCEA Leadership Award. Currently I am an instructor for the largest Radar system in the Coast Guard.

“AFCEA is an international organization that serves its members by providing a forum for the ethical exchange of information. AFCEA is dedicated to increasing knowledge through the exploration of issues relevant to its members in information technology, communications, and electronics for the defense, homeland security and intelligence communities.”

Role models and heroes:
My Father
My Husband
Billy Jean King
Ayn Rand

Why do you loving working in STEM?
It is a challenge and rewarding. I love to find out what the root of a problem is and electronics are a great platform to do just that. I also want my daughter to find a passion for technology and be able to feel confident in her abilities and strengths in this field.

Advice for future STEMinists?
“If a human made it then I can figure it out” – Richard Cordova (My father)

Favorite website or app:
Luminosity
http://www.crows.org

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Miranda Nash, Co-founder / CEO – qeople.com

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Miranda Nash

Co-founder / CEO

qeople.com (Pre-launch tech startup)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
The foundation for my interest in STEM was laid early, in about third grade. My dad would spend evenings giving me word problems that required increasingly difficult algebra. That was fun! I competed on the high school math team and have always loved strategy board games but had never been into video games or anything more directly related to technology. In high school I had an amazing physics teacher who brought the subject to life, and I thought I would major in Physics at Stanford.

As a requirement, I took my first computer science class and loved the combination of theory and practice (not to mention I got better grades in CS than physics). Then, I got accepted to be a “CS106 Section Leader” – an undergraduate teaching younger undergrads how to program in C. From that point, I was hooked. The fact that computer science could actually be lucrative never entered my thinking until much later.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Cool has never been a label I adopted easily for myself… The most *gratifying* projects cover a wide range, depending on the career phase. Early on, I was able to get the database development organization at Oracle to change the way we handled versioning and source control to be more useful and efficient. Later, I found a little-known data integration company that cleverly used heterogeneous databases for data transformations, which we acquired and I led into a new business unit at Oracle.

Most recently, I am starting an online curated talent marketplace. Our mission is to use video, data, assessment, and automation to bring qualified non-traditional professionals into the workplace, while helping companies sidestep the escalating talent wars. A disproportionate number of highly qualified women choose not to participate in paid work, and by embracing non-traditional work models, we can change that.

Role models and heroes:
Famous role models include Sheryl Sandberg, Safra Catz, Rachel Maddow, and Mika Brzezinski (all feminists, some STEMinists). Other role models include male and female senior managers I have worked with closely at Oracle, Oxygen Equity, and Jobscience (Thomas Kurian, Barbara Mowry, Chuck Rozwat, Rich Kelley, Vicki Appel). Finally, my two sisters who are both STEMinists and my mom who raised three STEMinists are personal heroes.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I am a pretty competitive person, and STEM is the playing field that is changing the world and ultimately making it a better place. First, I want to be on the right playing field. Second, I want to win.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t get discouraged from a STEM path because the labels don’t fit. For example, I have always felt excluded by the labels used for great computer science people: “rockstar programmer” and “hacker”. Or, some of you may feel uncomfortable with “feminist” or “STEMinist”. It doesn’t matter. Do something you can do well with passion for a sustained time, and the labels will go away. You will construct your own meaningful career.

Favorite website or app:
Most time spent: LinkedIn
Favorite for personal organization: Trello
Favorite for business: Envato Marketplace
Favorite innovative apps/businesses led by women: OneKingsLane.com, UrbanSitter.com

Twitter: @mirandanash

Site: linkedin.com/in/mirandanash

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Garima Gupta, Graduate Student / Regional Executive Officer, Robogals North America

Garima Gupta

Graduate Student / Regional Executive Officer, Robogals North America

Robogals



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always enjoyed math and science and it has been my dream since I was nine to become an astronaut and the first person on Mars. So my interests and dreams naturally led to engineering. My parents are both engineers and fantastic role models, so their excitement for the field and their support of my goals has helped a lot as well.

After being immersed in STEM for so long, I can’t really imagine doing anything else!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I’ve ever worked on was during my undergrad. As part of the Kirschvink Lab at Caltech, I helped design, construct, and test a stage that would simulate the systematic movement of a magnetometer placed on a Martian rover’s instrument arm. The stage helped us find evidence of lightning strikes in rocks on Earth and a similar technology could help us do the same thing on Mars. This data could help us confirm the past existence of water on the planet and help us determine which rocks to avoid for sample return.

It was amazing to get to work on a project that combined mechanical, electrical, computer, and systems engineering as well as the geological and planetary sciences. I loved it!

I’m excited for some upcoming projects too though. I’ll be a propulsion intern at SpaceX this summer; can’t wait to see what I get to work on!

Role models and heroes:
My Parents: patient, supportive, and persevering.
Eileen Collins: incredible woman/pilot/astronaut and very humble too!
Amelia Earhart & Dara Torres: perfect examples of letting nothing stop you from achieving your goals.
Peter Diamandis: has an infectious sense of motivation and passion for his work; I hope I can communicate my excitement that well!

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I really enjoy making things with my own hands (whether it be a program on a computer or a part on the lathe) and seeing those become components in larger projects. I love that these projects always have some connection to a “bigger picture.” Working in STEM allows me to solve real-world problems and at the same time, further my dream of becoming an astronaut.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Find other people that are passionate about the same things that you are and surround yourself with them. They will not only inspire you on a daily basis and but you will also help each other accomplish exactly what you set out to accomplish (or maybe even more)!

Favorite website or app:
I really like this app “Bonza” – it’s a game that combines crossword and jigsaw puzzles. So fun! 🙂

Twitter: @AstroGarima

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Kirsi Kuutti, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Undergraduate

Kirsi Kuutti

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Undergraduate

University of Minnesota Duluth

 

 



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Building robots on my high school’s FIRST Robotics team, the Daredevils, got me hooked on STEM careers! We created robots to compete in various games like soccer, basketball, and ultimate Frisbee. The Daredevils showed me that engineering is not just a profession, it is a lifestyle. Since teams only have six weeks to fabricate a competitive machine we learned to work hard and smart. We used engineering principles coined by the team like “Beautility”− a reliable machine must have both “Beauty” and “Utility”. My favorite task on the team was creating circuits from sensors to motors and performing general robot wiring.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Soldering a circuit board for NASA’s deep space habitat was the coolest project I have worked on. I interned for NASA’s Glenn Reserach Center one summer and assisted in the fabrication of a solar array regulator which takes energy from the sun and batteries to power a habitat for astronauts. The circuit I made ensures the solar regulator receives power even during emergencies. It’s exciting to think that one day something I made may be sent to space.

Role models and heroes:
My robotics coach Mr. Velner and astronaut Karen Nyberg are my top role models. My robotics coach demonstrated the importance of helping others throughout my whole robotics experience. He illustrated through his work, teaching biology and mentoring, that helping those beyond my generation is most important for humanity. Karen Nyberg is an amazing leader in STEM — being a part of missions on the International Space Station, a scientist, and a mother.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
STEM careers combine creativity and problem solving which I find exciting! Additionally, careers in STEM often lead to working in teams and collaborating with a whole lot of different people and different professions. You never fall short of challenges!

Advice for future STEMinists?
My first year of college I failed Calculus II, one of the first engineering major requirements, and withdrew from my university’s engineering program. The following semester I gave it another shot. After getting a study buddy, practicing hundreds of problems, and asking the professor questions during office hours I passed with a B+! My advice for future STEMinists is to not give up and keep pursuing your passion despite doubts. Even if you have to retake a class many times, try a new strategy and find those who can help you.

Favorite website or app:
Favorite app: French Girls, draw other people from the selfies they take and take your own selfies so other people can draw you.

Favorite website: http://www.ncwit.org/, resources and community for women in computer science.

Twitter: @KirsiCootie

Site: http://kirsikuutti.blogspot.com/

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Katie Mehnert, CEO and Founder, Pink Petro

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Katie Mehnert

CEO and Founder

Pink Petro



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
The energy business is a fascinating and rewarding place to make a difference. We create and make things that power our world and underpin our economy and livelihoods. After years in energy technology and business transformation in Upstream and Downstream, I found my passion in health, safety, and operational risk management. Today I enjoy continuing that path as a consultant to industry while developing a diverse pipeline of female talent to drive closure of the gender gap in our sector.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The best project I tackled was road safety while at Shell. My team launched an intervention program in 16 countries across the globe and we drove down road fatalities. What made it cool? Country leadership teams, suppliers, and employees all worked together to make a difference in our pursuit to Goal Zero – an initiative that touched every part of our business, with over 100k people impacted. Ultimately Shell went on to become a leader in road safety, carving out a centre of expertise and becoming the role model in industry.

Role models and heroes:
There are plenty to count. First and foremost, my parents are my heroes. My dad and mom both always taught me three important things: owning my path, confidence, and integrity. I had many great teachers who gave me the space to learn and fail. Peggy, an engineer who has recently hit the pinnacle of her career as a CEO in a large IOC, took a risk on me as a non-engineer and changed my mindset and my career trajectory.

We all need role models and heroes and I seek to become one for other women so they know they don’t have to go at it alone.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
STEM fuels our world. It underpins our lives. It’s the engine that solves our biggest problems. It’s bigger than all of us and needs women.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Own it and make it happen. Don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way.

Favorite website or app:
I’m going to have to say, Pink Petro. In 5 weeks, we are in 11 countries with members from various technical and non technical disciplines. I’m honored my industry supported and encouraged me to pursue developing Pink Petro, a community for women in energy and their advocates. It uses JIVE social business technology to power professional development communities, Q/A forums, blogs, discussions, mentor and coach matching, ideation, and other neat features. It’s spam and ad free and supported through annual membership dues. The site includes students, educators, professionals, executives, retirees and service providers in the energy sector.

Twitter: @katiemehnert

Site: www.katiemehnert.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Charlotte Robin, PhD student

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Charlotte Robin

PhD student

University of Liverpool



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I am naturally a very practical person, and have always enjoyed making things – from finger painting to flat-pack furniture! When I was younger, I had no intentions of pursuing a career in STEM, it just kind of happened!

I enjoyed doing research during my degree, but had no idea that it could be a career. When I was offered a job as a research assistant for a veterinary charity I was thrilled, and that was when I realised I wanted to be an epidemiologist. Since then I have worked on numerous research projects, done another Master’s degree and have just started my PhD in Public Health. So really, I am just at the beginning of my career!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I like to think that all the research projects I have worked on, or have helped with have contributed to improving the health and welfare of the animal or human population in some way. However, I am most proud of my PhD project. I am part of a new Health Protection Research Unit, focusing on emerging zoonotic infections. As a PhD student, it’s great to be part of such a talented and supportive group and to be doing research in such an exciting area. The Institute of Infection and Global Health is also an Athena SWAN bronze award holder, so it’s the perfect environment for a young, female academic such as myself to be working in.

Role models and heroes:
My mum. She worked incredibly hard to raise and support three children, and has taught me that you can achieve whatever you want with hard work and determination.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
The best thing about research is being the first person to discover something new – it’s very exciting!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be brave and never give up!

I very nearly didn’t take the first job I was offered as I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it – sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith and go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t enjoy it so you do something else!

And determination is essential. It took me nearly 4 years to secure PhD funding, sometimes things take longer than you expect (or hope) but if you are tenacious you will get there in the end!

Favorite website or app: Twitter

Twitter: @CharlotteRobin

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jesi Hoolihan, Student, Astrophysics

Jesi Hoolihan

Student

St Thomas University



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always had an interest in math and science during my high school career and after a six year career in retail management, found myself inspired while watching Particle Fever. I haven’t looked back since!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I founded my own nonprofit organization when I was 17. Founding a company on my own really showed me that I will accomplish anything I set my mind to.

Role models and heroes:
Elon Musk. I could care less if my hero is male or female, I love seeing people bettering our species as opposed to their pocket books.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Well, I’m not officially there yet, but I am excited to be studying astrophysics.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Anything is possible. Don’t fall into the expectations of others.

Favorite website or app:
www.spacex.com