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Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Michelle Oyen, University Lecturer, Engineering

Michelle Oyen

Dr. Michelle L. Oyen

University Lecturer

Cambridge University, Engineering



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s hard to remember! I was set on the idea of being an engineer by the time I was 10 years old. I loved math as a kid, and had a computer quite young (a Commodore 64 by age 7). I was always trying to take my toys apart and figure out how they worked.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Although I’ve had the chance to work on a number of very fun projects, including our tendency to use Lego robots in the lab (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBEtUJmp05w), my own favorite research work involves using engineering to try and study problem pregnancies, particularly in the context of understanding and preventing premature birth. People don’t think of engineering and human reproduction in the same framework, but there are actually a lot of very exciting opportunities in this area.

Role models/heroes:
My favorite early role model is Sophie Germain, who worked in both mathematics and elasticity far before it was easy for women to do so. My other favorite is Lillian Gilbreth, who was one of the early female industrial engineers but also famous from the books “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Belles on their Toes” about raising a large family in the early 20th century.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love knowing that there are so many opportunities for science and engineering to improve the human condition, through biomedicine and biomedical engineering, by using our engineering skills to be better stewards of the environment, and to apply our knowledge to real-world problems facing developing economies.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be proactive and have a thick skin. I’d love to say that STEM subjects were gender-blind in the 21st century but I don’t think we’re there yet. Amazing change has been taking place since the start of the 20th century, and it’s going to be a few more generations until all of those working in STEM don’t blink when seeing female colleagues in a wide range of roles.

Favorite website/app:
Kindle app. I love having access to so many books (both technical and otherwise) at my fingertips no matter where I am or what hardware I’m using.

Twitter: @michelleoyen

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Emily Rose Jordan, Ph.D. student in Neuroscience

Emily Rose Jordan

Emily Rose Jordan

Ph.D. student in Neuroscience
University of Cambridge, Gates Cambridge Scholars



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always been interested in travel and in human behaviour, so I initially pursued a major in Anthropology at university. However, I was also required at my university to take a certain number of science classes so I ended up signing up for a course on human decision-making and judgement, thinking it would relate to my anthropology courses. My TA was an amazing and interesting woman and I ended up working with her in her lab for a semester. Once I realized how creative and fun it was to do research in science, I was hooked. Being in the lab is so different to reading a textbook or sitting through a lecture, and it requires teamwork, which I love.

I am so glad that my university had that science requirement and that I tried something new because otherwise I never would have realized that I was completely fascinated by the human brain. While in anthropology I could observe human behaviour, in neuroscience I could actually manipulate it and conduct groundbreaking experiments. I was also lucky to find a great mentor like my TA, who encouraged me to pursue my interests even when it seemed daunting to change my major and take on a research project.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I worked on an experiment where we were able to show that social enrichment changes behaviour in mice and that these changes are passed to their offspring ‘epigenetically,’ or without actually changing the genetic sequence, but rather the expression of those genes.

Role models/heroes:
My teachers and professors who encouraged me to become a scientist. At times I was intimidated by a career in science and thought that I was not up to the challenge. I owe my decision to pursue a PhD and my success in winning a scholarship to do so to three key teachers I had in high school and college who saw my passion for science and encouraged me when I might have given up. I remember their words and actions as vivid moments in my career where I began to think “I can” instead of “I can’t”.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working with a team of smart, interesting, international people. That makes it fun to go to work. I also think the brain is a pretty cool machine, so getting paid to figure out how it works is not too shabby.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Take chances. If you are interested in something, go for it even when it seems daunting. Get to know your teachers and professors; they want to help you do your best.

Favorite website or app:
I love listening to the Scientific American podcast Science Talk when I’m working in the lab; it is a fun way to learn about other branches of science.

Twitter: @drsciencelady
Website: Read more about how I got into science and ended up in the UK