STEMinist Profile: Alicia Liu, Co-founder, CelebJuicer

Alicia Liu

Co-founder

CelebJuicer



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had an early inclination towards technology, since my dad is a software engineer. I knew it was a viable and rewarding career path. I started building websites and designing interfaces in Photoshop in high school. When I was applying for university in 2001, it was shortly after the dot-com bust. At that time, a lot of people were turned off by careers in high tech. I figured that even if I decided to pursue a career in something else, having a background in computer technology would always come in handy, because everyone uses computers to do their jobs. So I got a degree in computer engineering, which turned out to be a good decision.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m working on a project CelebJuicer.com right now, which provides bite-sized entertainment in the form of celebrity Twitter conversations. Even for people who don’t follow celebrities, the site has some very funny content that’s easy to miss otherwise. After focusing mainly on enterprise software for many years, this site has been a lot of fun for me to
design and build.

Role models/heroes:
Someone I discovered recently is Sandy Lerner, cofounder of Cisco. She was profiled in the 2011 documentary Something Ventured. She is the only woman to appear in the film, which chronicles the history of the beginnings of venture capitalism in Silicon Valley from the 60’s through the 80’s. She relays the difficulties of being a technical woman in a leadership position in a tech company at the time, how she didn’t neatly fit into a box (prescribed female roles), and was ousted in a similar manner to Steve Jobs, and was fired by the same VC that fired Jobs. She went on to found and sell a cosmetics company, and is now an advocate for organic farming and other philanthropic efforts.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Being able to have an idea and then making it happen is very rewarding and empowering. There are so many opportunities for all kinds of learning. Often the impression is that software developers are holed up coding in a cubicle all day, but in reality there is a lot of collaboration and creativity involved in the process. I’d like to see women not just as consumers of technology but as creators. We need more of those.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I hear from women who started learning programming, but give up because they think it was too hard. I think anything worth doing is hard. You have to be persistent if you think it’s a worthwhile endeavor. It took me many years to think I was good at programming. Women tend to give themselves less credit than they deserve.

Favorite website/app:
Amazon.com – it’s so convenient, especially since I don’t have a car anymore. I also interned there as a software development engineer, and had the opportunity to learn a lot about the disparate parts that combine to make the largest e-commerce company.

Twitter: @aliciatweet
Website: alicialiu.net

STEMinist Profile: Louise Brown, Research Fellow in the Polymer Composites Research Group

Brown

Louise Brown

Research Fellow in the Polymer Composites Research Group
Dept. of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering
University of Nottingham



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Maths and science were always my favourite subjects at school. My dad was a mechanical engineer and I was encouraged to consider engineering as a career. I studied mechanical engineering at university where I started to learn programming which I really enjoyed. My PhD was developing a computer controlled machine for filament winding composite materials and I realised that I was far better at being a software engineer than a mechanical engineer! After that I moved to the computer science department and have worked as a software engineer since then.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I think that my current job is pretty cool. It combines writing software which I love doing with the engineering that I started my career with. Being at the forefront of composite materials research, by developing software to model textile composites, is both challenging and very interesting. The project I run is here: www.texgen.sourceforge.net

Role models/heroes:
I think that the women in the BCSWomen group, and especially my fellow committee members, have been a great inspiration to me. They are so enthusiastic about the field that they work in and also passionate about encouraging women to start, and then continue in, careers in computing.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I think that it’s just what makes me tick! There’s always something new and interesting to learn.

Advice for future STEMinists?
If you are interested in and want to work in STEM don’t be put off by people who try to persuade you that it will be hard (which it sometimes may be, but what’s wrong with a challenge!) or that it’s not for women. Just decide what you want to do and go for it!

Favorite website or app: I think The Code Project has to be one of my favourites. It nearly always helps with coding problems I’m facing and its daily newsletter leads me to blogs and articles both serious and not so serious.

Twitter: @louisepb

STEMinist Profile: Emily Rice, Assistant Professor, Engineering Science & Physics

Emily Rice

Emily Rice

Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island
(Engineering Science & Physics Department)

Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History
(Department of Astrophysics)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I enjoyed math from at least the sixth grade, took advanced classes throughout high school, and when I started college I was planning on majoring in math. In the fall semester of my freshman year I also signed up for an introductory astronomy class, and I was hooked. I signed up for physics the following semester so I could major in physics & astronomy and take the rest of the astronomy courses. But I didn’t do much research as an undergraduate and wasn’t certain I would pursue a career in STEM until I started working at a planetarium after graduating from college. I learned so much more about astronomy and public outreach while I was there that I decided I wanted to pursue research and a Ph.D. in astronomy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I am thrilled with how my fledgling research career has expanded since my Ph.D. to include low mass stars and extra-solar planets. I started out studying brown dwarfs, which are objects with masses in between the masses of stars and planets. My collaborators and I are trying to understand all of these objects in concert because they are surprisingly similar despite the striking differences between, for example, the Sun and Jupiter in our own Solar System.

Role models/heroes:
Even though he didn’t teach science, I still look up to my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Eugene Tiesler, because he taught in a way that made me feel capable and comfortable – I hope I can do the same for my own students. I also admire fellow scientists who have achieved success in their careers while mentoring students and having a family and interesting hobbies – luckily there are too many to name!

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the variety and flexibility – I have a lot of different day-to-day responsibilities and there are always opportunities for new projects, in teaching, writing, presenting, research, travel, and more. I meet a lot of people who are interested in what I do, and it is always satisfying to help them learn more or change the way they think about science or scientists, even slightly. I think if everyone understood science just a little bit more, the world would be a better place for it.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Two pieces of advice:

1. Find what you enjoy, even if it’s not what others expect of you. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t be a chore to devote yourself to it and excel.

2. Just because you have achieved a degree of success doesn’t been it is available to everyone. Take an honest look at your path and your community and figure out what you can do or change to make science open to and supportive for others who might be interested. We will all benefit from developing an equitable and diverse STEM community!

Favorite website or app:  Astronomy Picture Of the Day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/

Twitter: @emilulu
Website: http://about.me/emilyrice

STEMinist Profile: Eunice Nuekie Cofie, President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist

Eunice Nuekie Cofie

President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist
Nuekie, Inc.



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
As an African-American woman, I had always been made to feel that I was not beautiful because of my ethnicity. I was often picked on by my peers because of my dark skin and kinky hair as a child and remembered crying endlessly about the hurtful comments that damaged my self-esteem. My saving grace was my father’s encouragement for me to pursue an understanding of science. My father would spend countless hours teaching me how to conduct science experiments as little girl which led me to have a strong love for it and science became my strength. I understood that I may not be the prettiest girl in the room but I could be the smartest girl in the room. This love led me to major in chemistry as an undergraduate student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

One day while in my organic chemistry lab class, my eyes were opened to the world of cosmetic science. My professor wanted my classmates and I to understand how to practically apply organic chemistry to our everyday lives. So he decided to have us create lotions and hair relaxers instead of conducting the regular lab experiments. I was bitten by the creative bug and began working alongside my professor learning as much as I could about cosmetic science.

I discovered in my research that the pigment of my skin was created by a substance in our cells called melanin which led me to realize that those cells were divinely placed there and that my skin color did not make me inferior. I also realized that the cosmetic and the dermatological industry lacked effective treatments that took into account the unique structure and function of ethnic skin and hair. I realized at that moment this was the path that I wanted to take. My dream was to close the gap in the quality of treatment products available to ethnic people.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current project that I am working on for my company is a product-line which will treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark marks on the skin) in ethnic skin. I am excited about the launch of my company’s first product-line this fall.

Role models/heroes:
One of my heroes is Madam C.J. Walker for her entrepreneurial spirit which led her to become the first female millionaire. I appreciate how she was able to take an idea and develop it with the resources she had around her. My other hero is Janice Bryant-Howroyd, Founder and CEO of ACT-1 because she is able to translate her Christian faith into doing well in business and in her community.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working as cosmetic chemist because I have an opportunity to change lives by inspiring ethnic men and women to discover they are perfect in beauty.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Pursuing a Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) career as women, especially as a woman of color, can be quite challenging due to the social constructs which do not heavily encourage women to assume roles in this field of work. I would say do not be afraid to take the lead and to realize you have everything within you to succeed! I would also encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship in the STEM and bring new innovations to our society that will create world-class companies and increase job growth.

Favorite website or app: www.blackenterprise.com

Twitter: @nuekie
Website: www.nuekie.com, www.eunicecofie.com

STEMinist Profile: Tia Stackle, Regional Data Engineer

Tia Stackle

Regional Data Engineer
Suddenlink Communications



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was always good in math and sciences. I liked that there was a “right” answer out there and that the classes weren’t graded by the whim of the teacher’s preference. When I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mother for seven years, I used the computer a lot to get curriculum and other ideas. I taught myself how to use HTML to make my own webpages. But when it came time to pick a career, I wanted something less “artsy” than web design. I realized that network engineering is all about communication – and I like communicating and helping others to gain knowledge and socialize and enjoy all that technology has to give us today. Without networks, none of that is possible.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My version of cool may not seem all that great to others…But I was working for a cable company that was launching telephony services back in the mid-2000s. Marketing hadn’t timed their launch date with Engineering very well so we ended up with a due date that was two weeks after the equipment showed up in our warehouse. I led the team in installing, configuring and testing six UBR100112 routers (hip height routers that tie the Ethernet network to the hybrid fiber coax plant) in six different cities before our due date. It was fun, challenging and rewarding. What is cooler than that?

Role models/heroes:
Padmasree Warrior – CTO of Cisco, Nomi Bergman – President of Brighthouse, Charlotte Field – Senior VP of Infrastructure and Operations at Comcast.

Why do you love working in STEM?
It is exciting to be on the cutting edge of technology – doing things that no one thought possible 10 years ago. I love leading a team to make The Network bigger, faster, stronger, better and to know that without us (network engineers in general), broadband and the Internet wouldn’t be the essential tool it has become.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Work hard. Learn a lot. Love what you do. STEM changes the world every day and we want to be part of that change so hang in there.

Favorite website or app:
Honestly…Netflix. Probably shouldn’t publish that though since I work for a cable company. :) Sudoku puzzles would be what I spend the most “free time” using. I have been told they’ll help to keep me from losing my mind…and with a house full of daughters, a new husband, and a crazy career that has me work at all hours of the day and night, I need every bit of help I can get!

Twitter: @tiastackle

STEMinist Profiles: Dana Smith, Ph.D. student in Experimental Psychology

Dana Smith

Dana Smith

Ph.D. student in Experimental Psychology
University of Cambridge



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I originally got interested in psychology from a clinical standpoint, thinking I would pursue a career as a therapist. However, in the psychology courses I took during my time as an undergraduate, I realized I was much more interested in the neuroscientific aspect of the field. I became fascinated by the brain, wanting to understand the underlying neurobiological reasons for our actions. I also preferred the more concrete nature of research, being able to empirically address a question rather than relying on self-reports or speculation.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My work is on the brain mechanisms involved in drug addiction, and we recently finished a project investigating the differences in the brains and behaviors of addicted and recreational drug users. We hope to discover why some individuals are prone to addiction, while others can use drugs consistently on occasion without ever developing dependency. This latter group has been vastly understudied, and we hope to discover insights into potential protective factors against addiction.

Role models/heroes:
My advisor, Dr. Karen Ersche, is a brilliant researcher in addiction science, and her commitment, inquisitiveness and insight into the field have been an invaluable resource for me. Also, Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has long been one of my academic crushes. Her career is unparalleled and is truly inspiring.

Why do you love working in STEM?
While some days slogging through research can be pretty rough, those eureka moments when you find a connection in the data or have an idea for a new project are incredibly exciting! Also, the caliber of the intellect of the people you get to work with is unmatched.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Think of something you’re curious or excited about, find the people who do it best, and go learn from them.

Favorite website or app:
The Well blog on the New York Times Health website always reports on super interesting exercise research findings (a personal side interest of mine). Also, Mo Costandi’s Neurophilosophy blog on the Guardian Science website is great!

Twitter: @smithdanag
Website: brainstudy.wordpress.com

STEMinist Profile: Sara Caldwell, Molecular Biologist

Sara Caldwell

Sara Caldwell

Molecular Biologist

Associate Scientist Level



Organization: A small molecular diagnostics start-up company. We specialize in two main types of diagnostic assay development: human genetic diagnostics and pathogen identification.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always liked biology in high school, but I was never sure about what I specifically wanted to study. That is, until I took an Introduction to Biotechnology course at James Madison University (Duuuuukes!). I immediately loved the potential and variety of career choices in molecular biology. DNA-based research is conducted in almost every life science discipline nowadays and molecular biology lab skills are useful across all of them.

I thought this career choice gave me the most options later in life. I could continue to work in a lab, move into sales, work in regulation, write code for data analysis, or eventually pursue a Ph.D. and teach while I perform research at a university. I’m a person who likes options, to say the least, and this field offered a variety of choices. Everything grows quickly and it’s exciting. It can be chaotic at times, but I love it.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m currently working in assay development for a genetics diagnostics assay. It tests for a whole panel of genetically inherited disorders for a fraction of the cost of traditional sequencing. I’m incredibly excited to see where it goes and how it fares in the market. Other cool fact—I’ve worked with 50+ strains of influenza. That was a former job, but it makes a good party conversation starter.

Role models/heroes:
Hillary Clinton. Yes, I know she isn’t a scientist. I grew up with Hillary’s transition from First Lady to Secretary of State. She is never hesitant to speak her mind, remains true to herself, and definitely presents herself as a lady. This is challenging in a field dominated by powerful male lawyers and she has risen to meet it. Whether you love or hate her pink suit and her politics, you have to admire a woman who buys a round of Crown Royal on the campaign trail, right? All joking aside, she is someone whose presence could have disappeared in her husband’s scandal. Now she is one of the most powerful people in U.S. politics. This takes an admirable amount of tenacity and strength. It is impressive to say the least.

Why do you love working in STEM?
STEM translates into potential. Every day there are new advancements in technology that have the potential to completely transform our life experience. It is thrilling to be a part of that development and is a huge source of motivation. Who could have known 50 years ago that we would be analyzing DNA sequences electronically on a computer? Or even about DNA’s existence? It is amazing to say the least. The ability to improve our daily lives is incredible and definitively my favorite thing about the field.

Advice for future STEMinists?
You aren’t “too girly” for science and math. Engineers are not all socially awkward men. Being a scientist, engineer, or mathematician does not mean you are married to your work instead of a man. Do not doubt yourself. If you know you know it, flaunt it. Do not hesitate. Yes, there are salary discrepancies. Do not settle for an employer that allows them. There are an increasing number of women in STEM, but we need to show some confidence. Above all: believe in yourself. You have to. No one else is going to take you seriously if you do not take yourself seriously first.

Favorite website or app:
Science news: Science Daily, Lab Spaces
Blogs/Tumblrs: This is What A Scientist Looks Like, Scientific American Bloggers, It’s Okay to Be Smart

Twitter: @SciencingSara
Website: Geeking & Drinking

STEMinist Profile: Christina Fuentes, Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience

Christina Fuentes

Christina Fuentes

Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was always interested in science, and as a teenager I became more interested in human behaviour. It wasn’t until my first semester at university, though, that I was introduced to the study of the biology behind psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and I was hooked. What could be more interesting than understanding why we think, feel, and behave as we do!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
For my Ph.D. research I worked with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Working with them was at times challenging, but it was overall quite fun and always rewarding. Chatting with their families was also rewarding and enlightening; here is a group of people who are looking to science for answers not out of interest but out of need. I loved being able to answer some of their questions and was inspired by their will and insight. This experience has helped me remember that while there’s a lot to be learned through experiments, there’s also a lot to be learned from the people who live and work with patients every day, as well as the patients themselves!

Role models/heroes:
My Ph.D. adviser Amy Bastian taught me how to be a good researcher and a confident scientist. She’s now a close friend and I still look to her as a model of achieving a successful work-life balance. Additional inspiration came from members of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). I was very involved with the group during my Ph.D. and this allowed me to meet a number of STEM women with a variety of careers outside of academia. Until then I had thought that the route to a professorship was my only option; these women opened my eyes to other exciting options that I had previously never considered.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I’m always learning new things! Working in STEM isn’t an outcome, it’s an ongoing learning experience. It’s all about asking “how?” and “why?”.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Work toward a field you’re interested in but keep your mind open to new directions. Also, don’t fall into a career path just because that’s what those before you have done. The best example of this is the traditional academic path of scientists into professorships, which I mentioned above. While this may be a great career for some, there are lots of great jobs out there for scientists; don’t limit yourself to the traditional!

Favorite website or app:
I couldn’t do without keeping in touch with friends and family via Facebook or keeping up with the latest news via Twitter.

Twitter: @CTFuentes

STEMinist Profile: Erica Mauter, Sr. Validation Engineer, Teva Pharmaceuticals

Erica Mauter

Erica Mauter

Senior Validation Engineer
Teva Pharmaceuticals


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had a vague sense of being interested in science and engineering as far back as grade school. What cemented it for me was, during high school, seeing a show on PBS about biomedical engineers who analyzed Olympic athletes to improve their training. These engineers worked on athletes’ form and also on equipment athletes used to train. I played sports, so this practical application was illuminating for me.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Outside of my day job, I love playing with my websites. I’ve been a blogger for almost 10 years; in addition to my personal blog, swirlspice, and my namesake ericamauter.com, I’ve had a few niche interest projects come and go. I’m not a developer or a designer by any stretch, but playing with features and code-y bits has long been a fun pastime for me. Bonus: through my web presence, I’ve met a lot of really great friends and people who do amazing things in technology and the business of technology.

Role models/heroes:
lynne d johnson has long been someone I look up to. She’s truly a pioneer in every facet of the modern web. She’s been producing content, managing online communities, and doing digital marketing since way before most people knew what those things were. The first time I met her was at the 2006 BlogHer conference; I saw her in a hallway and totally went all fangirl and blurted out, “Oh my god, you’re lynne d johnson!” I’m now pleased to call her a good friend as well.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love having these skills that not everyone has. STEM work is not easy, but it’s a good match for what I happen to be good at doing, and that makes it rewarding. Also, being in validation, I do a lot of technical writing. There’s an art to writing a document that’s technically accurate and comprehensive, that speaks to and satisfies regulatory requirements, and that is still comprehensible by a non-expert. In that sense, it’s quite creative work.

Advice for future STEMinists?
There is a wider variety of jobs for STEM majors than you can even imagine, so do your research. For example, I did my first internship at a food company, in R&D. My project was to figure out how to make a cereal stay crispier longer in milk (aka, “extend its bowl life”). Also, if you’re graduating with a degree in a STEM field, you are a smart, capable person and you absolutely deserve to be well-compensated for your work. Negotiate your salary offers. Always ask for more. Read the book “Women Don’t Ask” for help with that.

Favorite website or app:
Just one?! Unpossible! Okay, I’ll name Instapaper as my favorite app. It lets you save web pages for reading at a later time and in a more readable form. My favorite website is Racialicious, “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture.” It’s eye-opening, and the perspectives generally apply to people existing in any non-dominant aspect of culture, including women.

Twitter: @swirlspice
Website: swirlspice.com

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