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STEMinist Profile: Julie Kientz, Assistant Professor – Univ. of Washington

Julie Kientz

Assistant Professor

University of Washington


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had wanted to be a veterinarian for as long as I can remember, but while I was in high school and doing a job shadowing project, I fainted while watching a dog undergoing surgery! I realized I probably needed to find a new career path after that. I had been spending a lot of time online and chatting with people on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and was amazed by how useful the Internet was in connecting me to places and people beyond the small town where I grew up. One of my online friends encouraged me to try out programming, and so I did. It was really fun and I was hooked! After that, I decided to pursue computer science.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I am definitely really proud of the Baby Steps project I’ve been working on since about 2007. The idea is to help parents of young children track developmental progress in their children from birth through age 5 to help detect things like autism or other developmental delays sooner. The idea is that the information will be stored in a centralized database, so we have been working on ideas to use technology to reach parents no matter how they use technology or what their access to it might be. We’ve been using a software application, a website, Twitter, text messaging, and more to try to reach as many parents as we can! It’s been really rewarding to work on a project that can have the potential to help many different families. Also, now that I have my own daughter, I am finding it fun and really useful to use to track her development.

Role models and heroes:
Growing up, I remember really loving to read about Sally Ride, the first female astronaut. It really made me feel like I could do anything I wanted to, and that there was no job that was beyond reach because of my gender. I’m also a big fan of female computer scientists Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper and of Harvey Mudd’s current president, Maria Klawe.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love the feeling that I can create anything in the digital world and use those abilities to help others. Computer science is not just a bunch of math like a lot of people think, but it’s actually a creative process that requires a lot of different types of thinking. Also, the work I do in human-computer interaction involves both working with people to find out what they need and then developing prototypes of that technology and making those ideas come to life. This makes it both challenging and exciting.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Computers touch almost every aspect of our lives these days, and thus there are a number of opportunities to apply computer science to almost any thing that interests you, whether it’s healthcare, art, science, music, games, movies, or more. By combining your work with the things that interest you most, you can definitely enjoy it a lot more and feel good about it. Also, stick to it, even if it gets hard. There are a number of fun things you can do once you get really good at computing.

Favorite website or app:I really love my Fitbit, which I’ve been using for almost 3 years now. When you spend a lot of time with computers, it’s really easy to spend a lot of time not moving. My Fitbit keeps me accountable for making sure I get enough activity, and it also is fun to go back and look at the data and compete with friends for the highest number of steps.

Twitter: @juliekientz

Site: faculty.washington.edu/jkientz

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Amy Del Medico, Assistant Professor Mathematics

Amy Del Medico

Amy Del Medico

Assistant Professor Mathematics

Waubonsee Community College

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Math skills came easily, so I accumulated many math credits as an undergrad and ended up with a BS in Math. Eventually decided I wanted to teach college level students, so went to grad school to continue studying math to earn a Master’s degree. I love teaching and STEM, so this was the quickest way to get into a college classroom.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Currently a Co-PI on a NSF S-STEM grant that provides scholarships to needy students who are pursuing STEM degrees. Very rewarding to help these students.

Role models/heroes:
This is probably going to sound bad…but here it goes. As an undergrad at Benedictine University (Illinois Benedictine College at the time), my first math course was with Dr. Townsley. She is a tall, attractive, intelligent woman and often wears a flower in her hair (I came to find out later this was from her Hawaiian heritage). Dr. Townsley was the first female STEM educator who was not the stereotypical “earthy, birkenstock wearing, dowdy” professor. She had high expectations, was friendly and fair. I try to emulate those qualities in my teaching.

Why do you love working in STEM?
The discovery aspect – the “ah-ha” moments, both for myself and when my students have them.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be yourself and be proud of your accomplishments.

Favorite website/app:
Used to be Threadsy, now it’s iAnnotate.

Twitter: @amymathprof

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Catherine Klapperich, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Catherine Klapperich

Catherine Klapperich

Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Boston University



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was a lone wolf! I did school newspaper in high school and wasn’t really encouraged in science by teachers. I intended to go to Northwestern to study journalism and changed to the school of engineering in my first semester — simply because I thought it was cool!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
What I do now is very cool! But the project that hooked me was part of a freshman seminar course at NWU. We were allowed to use the SEM in the Materials Science Department to do any project we chose. I looked at bugs, up close and personal. They let me use the machine by myself, and at 18 years old, that felt like incredible power!

Role models/heroes:
My graduate mentor, Lisa Pruitt and my post doc mentor, Carolyn Bertozzi. I owe so much to both of them.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love my job because I am in charge of my intellectual life. There is no substitue for that kind of freedom.

Advice for future STEMinists?
The best “outreach” you can do is to be a good example to others. Work hard, be creative and be nice!

Favorite website or app:
Twitter and Mendeley!

Twitter: @DrKlapperich
Website: www.bu.edu/klapperich, www.facebook.com/klapperichlab

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Charlyn Partridge, Temporary Assistant Professor, Biology

Charlyn Patridge

Charlyn Partridge

Temporary Assistant Professor, Biology
University of South Alabama



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have just always loved science. I remember being around 6 or 7 and my parents bought me a little play microscope. I would go out to our swimming pool during the fall and winter (when we were not cleaning it constantly) and dip out water and just stare at all of the microscopic life it contained. When I was 13 I decided that that was what I wanted to do forever.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project thus far has probably been the main project from my dissertation. I looked at how a particular endocrine disruptor, EE2, impacted secondary trait expression in pipefish. Pipefish are sex-role reversed so sexual selection acts stronger on females than on males. Because of this, females have evolved both permanent and temporary bands that they display during courtship. We found out that when you expose males to EE2 for as little as 10 days they develop these secondary sex traits and that females tend to avoid mating with exposed males. Currently we are looking at how this may impact the strength of sexual selection on a population scale.

Role models/heroes:
As a scientist, I would have to say Barbara McClintock. She had a passion for science that I envy. Adam Jones and Ginger Carney: Adam was my PhD advisor and both he and his wife, Ginger, have an incredible ability to balance both their work and family life. As a mom, I have yet to discover how to excel in both areas at the same time.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I think the main reason why I love working in STEM is because I get the chance to answer questions that no one has ever asked. That is really a cool thing.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Do something that challenges you and always continue to learn. Once you become stagnant it is very hard to get back in the game.

Favorite website or app:
Evoldir. Love that site.

Twitter: @sciencegurlz0

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Melissa Weber Mendonça, Professor of Mathematics

Melissa Mendoca

Melissa Weber Mendonça

Professor at the Department of Mathematics (Ph.D. in Applied Math)
Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Florianópolis, Brazil)

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Well, I’ve always been very curious, and since I was very little I used to say I would be a scientist when I grew up. I started out wanting to be an archaeologist, then a geologist, then a physicist…When the time came to decide (when I was 16/17) I was seriously considering engineering (my father is an engineer and I always appreciated that he helped me study math).

But then my high school math teacher recognized that I had an interest and started giving me extra work. After a while I fell in love with math, and along with my love of computers and programming I became an applied mathematician. Since in Brazil all it takes for someone to be a professor at a University is an exam, I took the exam in 2009 and have been at the math department ever since.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Well, math is a complicated subject in that we don’t necessarily have projects but work sometimes on the same project for 20, 30 years. My work is mainly on optimization, and it’s hard to explain to anyone why what I do is cool/inspiring. I loved all of my projects, I would say though that currently I’m in love with teaching! I think it is truly inspiring to teach and to help others see the beauty that I see in math.

Role models/heroes:
Well, I could say the same famous names we hear all the time but I’m going to cite someone who had a personal impact on my life: Anne Lemaître, from FUNDP (Belgium). She comes to me as a role model in that she showed me that it is possible to have a successful career and also have a family. Also, Gina Trapani is a big “geek” hero of mine!

Why do you love working in STEM?
In my case, it’s a matter of personal taste, really. I think I agree with the people that say math is like art; I like it because it is beautiful. It so happens that it is also useful, and to me that helps motivate me in my everyday work. Doing math is a bit like playing with LEGOs: once you have a few blocks on your hand, you can use that to build other (bigger) blocks, and eventually you’ll have built a complete figure. That’s what it feels like to work: it feels like playing! And having fun on your job is priceless.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t measure yourself by what others do or by what you think they think of you. Be sure that you are doing the best you can, and that will be enough. If you ever feel alone, especially if you’re a minority in your workplace, be sure that you don’t try and carry the weight of all minorities in the world. You don’t have to feel responsible for not perpetuating stereotypes, and you don’t have to justify yourself for being there. You are just as worthy as everybody else!

Favorite website or app:
Right now, I’m going to have to go with Wunderkit, which is just amazing for managing big projects at home or work. I also really like Wolfram Alpha, but I’ve been a little disappointed that they started charging for some features, I used to indicate it to my students so they could check their answers while studying.

Twitter: @melissawm
Website: University profile