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STEMinist Profile: Natalie Panek, Mission Systems Engineer

Natalie Panek

Mission Systems Engineer

MDA Space Missions


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My career in STEM began with a dream to travel to space. I was always good at math and science, but loved the adventure involved with becoming an astronaut and was drawn to exploration. This was the deciding factor in pursuing mechanical and aerospace engineering degrees. I also love doing hands-on work and playing with hardware and technology, so engineering is a great fit!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing projects over the past few years. I’ve driven a solar-powered car across North America, got my pilot’s license, and skydived with Korea’s first Astronaut. I’ve interned at both NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center (working on reliability engineering) and NASA Ames Research Center (on a Mission to Mars!).

At my current job, I first started working as an Operations Engineer for the Next Generation Canadarm Project. The goal of this project was to build two new robotic arms to repair and service satellites that have broken components, or have run out of fuel. It is about being more conscious of what we are putting into space and thinking about sustainable exploration. Now I help support the robotics on the International Space Station.

I loved these projects because I was innovating for extreme environments and working with outgoing and dynamic peers. This type of environment gives you the confidence to want to change the world!

Role models and heroes:
My role models are the amazing women that I am able to interact with while pursuing a career in STEM; for example, my instructor when I got my pilot’s license, Athenia Jansen. She exuded confidence and passion, which I think carried her far in a male-dominated field. This is similar for Lt-Col. Maryse Carmichael, Commanding Officer of the Canadian Snowbirds.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it is an opportunity to seek out unfamiliar situations and really challenge myself or push my limits. A curiosity for science, engineering, and technology can cultivate innovation and facilitates life long learning. STEM is a gateway to exploration, which emphasizes the intricate balance between human progress and an entire universe waiting for discovery.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice for future women in STEM is to dive head-on into challenging careers. Do not be afraid of risk and take on leadership roles in order to revolutionize what women can accomplish in challenging fields that can influence the foundations of our generation and the next. Also learning teamwork skills, competence, toughness, discipline, responsibility and confidence can really help foster innovation and drive what is possible.

Favorite website or app:
One of my favorite websites is of big mountain skier Christina Lustenberger: http://christinalusti.com/

She has a passion for the mountains, outdoors, and exploration. She is pushing the limits of women’s ski mountaineering. And the pictures on her blog are gorgeous!

Twitter: @nmpanek
Site: thepanekroom.com

Blog News

Introducing the STEMinist Job Board

We are pleased to launch the STEMinist Job Board today in hopes of connecting STEMinist-friendly employers with talented women in STEM. It is free to both view and post job listings; after publication, listings will be active for 30 days.

What We Hope The Job Board Becomes
We hope the Job Board will provide job-seeking women in STEM another avenue with which to find opportunities as well as a means to identify employers who recognize the importance of workplace diversity. For employers, we hope it becomes a place to showcase their organization as one that values gender equity and an important tool in their efforts to recruit and reach out to a wider applicant pool.

Why a STEMinist Job Board?
I was motivated to add a Job Board to STEMinist after my own recent job search as a Software Engineer. Every day I reviewed job listings from Indeed, LinkedIn, Craigslist and the Careers sections of individual employers. And nearly every day I came across a listing written in such a manner it a) made it pretty clear it was written by men for men and b) completely turned me off from applying even if I met the qualifications.

The worst were misguided attempts at humor like listing “mustache growing ability” under “Desirable Skills,” or referring to wives and girlfriends instead of using gender-neutral language (as a gay woman the reference to wives/girlfriends actually did apply to me but I’m pretty sure these companies were not hosting Lesbian Recruiting Drives). The job listing made me feel unwelcome before I even had any actual contact with the company.

A common complaint among companies hiring developers is the lack of female applicants. How many women had the same reaction I did to these types of job postings? It takes effort and awareness to develop an inclusive job posting (not to mention an inclusive workplace in the first place) and I thought one way STEMinist could help was by providing a Job Board of its own, a place for progressive organizations to be seen and heard.

I really hope organizations step up and commit to diversity by submitting job listings to STEMinist, and in turn inspire and provide an example for other employers. Please help spread the word about our new Job Board and as always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Links
The STEMinist Job Board can be found at: STEMinist Job Board.

The STEMinist Jobs Twitter feed can be found at: @STEMinistJobs.

Blog

STEMinist Profile: D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika, Founder and Consultant

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D’Andre Wilson-Ihejirika

Founder and Consultant

BrainSTEM Alliance



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always been a bit of a nerd and loved math and was really interested in science and why things were the way they were. I ended up studying engineering on a whim. I was in grade 12 and was trying to figure out what to study and my calculus teacher was an engineer. It made me decide to look into it a bit more as a career option. I applied and was accepted and I am very happy I did.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
At work I think one of the coolest projects I worked on was a project to improved our bitumen quality. I work in the Canadian Oil sands and our bitumen quality is very important if we wish to sell to market or if we will to upgrade to synthetic crude oil. I worked as a business case advisor on this investigation into how we could improve bitumen quality, helping to ensure that the capital was spent where it needed to be spent and the benefits we were hoping for would actually be realized with the solutions being implemented. It was a good project and helped me to learn a lot more about the impact of bitumen quality to our site operations.

Outside of work, a great project I worked on was with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), coordinating their international Consulting Design Olympiad competition. This competition pairs NSBE chapters from across the globe and challenges them to present an innovative technological solution to a societal problem facing the third world. I enjoyed working on this project because I loved seeing the ideas that engineering students came up with and the passion they had for making a difference in the world using STEM.

Role models and heroes:
My role models are many of the people who I met through the National Society of Black Engineers, particularly those in NSBE Canada. They are role models to me because they have shown me that through passion and determination you can make an impact on your community and you can have a successful career. All of them have really successful careers or have started their own businesses while continuing to give back and inspire the next generation of engineers and I hope that I can continue to do the same.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because I love the innovation that surrounds the field. I love that we get to solve problems and think outside the box. I also love the way that STEM applies to many different aspects of our lives; you can make an impact in any industry.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice to future STEMinists is to keep on thinking creatively and working hard. Follow your passion because your passion is what will lead you to success. 🙂

Favorite website or app:
My favorite website/app is StumbleUpon. It is so simple, just takes you to a random website, but I love that I can use it to explore the internet and find out something new about any particular subject area, whether it be technology, education, art or fashion.

Twitter: @dwilson15

Site: www.brainstemalliance.com

Blog

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

Blog

STEMinist Profile: Marguerite Evans-Galea, Scientist/Senior Research Officer

Marguerite (Maggie) Evans-Galea

Scientist, Senior Research Officer, Team Leader

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had always been a curious child who loved animals and nature. My brother and I used to collect tadpoles from the local pond and watch them develop. I also relished (still do) Sir David Attenborough’s incredible documentaries, but really fell in love with ‘the molecular’ when I watched “Race for the Double Helix”.

But I had a double-love in science and music. I had considered being a music therapist, and this is initially why I did my double degree – B. Music and B. Science – but I was ultimately bitten by the science bug. After graduating, I went onto postgraduate studies in science and here I am.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
It is often the way that the coolest project is the one you are working on at the time. But I have finally found the ‘big picture’ topic I wish to pursue for the rest of my career. I am excited to be developing novel biomarkers and therapies for severely debilitating neurodegenerative disease. This work contains all of the most fascinating aspects of my scientific training – all meshed together!

Role models and heroes:
Role models/heroes in science: Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, David Attenborough, Peter Doherty, Brian Schmidt and my husband – all are ‘true’ scientists, minus the ego.

Other role models/heroes: Maya Angelou, Ludwig van Beethoven, the Dalai Lama, Carrie Fisher, Nick Vijucic and my Mum – all extraordinary individuals who overcame immense challenges in their lives.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love helping people. Severely debilitating disease can rob an individual of their independence, their quality of life and sometimes even their dignity and hope. People whose lives are touch by serious disease never fail to inspire. Whether across the table or across borders – they are incredibly strong; always supporting each other, their families and themselves.

Scientific research is a lifeline. It is a glimmer on the horizon – an opportunity to restore belief in the impossible. Adding to our knowledge about a disease and exploring potential treatments that could go from bench-to-beside, makes me feel like I am doing something very ‘real’ and useful every single day. After all, the medicines prescribed by our doctors every day were first developed in the laboratory. It is extremely rewarding!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Do what you love to do. Recognise your talents, broaden your scope and look beyond what you see. Science is just one word that encompasses a universe of questions, knowledge, expertise, opportunities and professions! Dream big and go for it!

Favorite website or app:
Twitter – great online networking tool.

Twitter: @MVEG001

Blog

STEMinist Profile: Rachel Reese, Software Engineer/Math Geek

Rachel Reese

Software Engineer/Math Geek


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
First, my family. I was given lots of opportunities as a kid to go to Science Camps, and Girls in Engineering programs; my mother made sure we had a computer in the house in the 80s; and my great-grandfather’s engineering achievements were always lauded. I also had books of logic puzzles constantly around, and was just basically allowed to explore and play with STEM-focused games. I think moving into algebra and learning about “x” in junior high math cemented it for me. Math was quickly my favorite subject, and I was always at or near the top of my math class. I suppose I consider Math — Algebra, really; the Algebra of groups, rings, and fields, not of “x” — to be my first love, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. 🙂

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Early in ’09, I was chatting with a bunch of friends, and we happened upon the fact that 3 of us in that group had been laid off within the month. One of the guys mentioned that a couple folks up in San Francisco had run a LaidOffCamp — a wholly volunteer event for people to gain new job search skills, find a supportive community, and craft a more productive job search (from http://laidoffcampaz.com/) — and then casually suggested we have one in Phoenix. Off and on for the next several months, (and as time went on, mostly on, even after I was back at a full-time job), I spearheaded the event, gathering speakers, volunteers, and sponsors, as well as sorting out a venue, the schedule, and all those little things that go into an event. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

(After the first event, I handed over the reins to Susan Baier, who has grown the event tremendously. See link above.)

Role models and heroes:
Emmy Noether and Annie Oakley.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Because I love exploring, solving problems, and rising to a challenge!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Keep a list somewhere of some of the things you’re most proud of having done, or been involved in. Refer to it when things aren’t going well, and remind yourself what makes you unique. Find a mentor (or several) as soon as you can, and find supportive coworkers, or other folks at your level. I’ve always been pretty heavily involved in the dev community — I attend (and now speak at) conferences and user groups — and the folks I’ve met there have absolutely made the difference when I needed advice on a project, times were tough, or I was receiving conflicting information on career paths. Join a “Women in ” group, if there is one (or start one!), especially if you’re tiring of feeling like the only woman you know. Stay involved! Science is cool.

Favorite website or app:
Oof, this might be the toughest one. I’m going to go with Hulu, Audible, and Pandora. Those are in an entertainment equivalence class, and so they totally count as one, right? 😉

Twitter: @rachelreese

Web: http://rachelree.se

STEMinist Profiles spotlights women in STEM. Fill out this online form to submit your own profile or nominate someone you would like to see included. Past profiles can be found here.

Blog Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Arielle Duhaime-Ross, Science Writer and Blogger

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Arielle Duhaime-Ross

Science, Health and Environmental reporting masters student, Science Writer and Blogger

New York University, SalamanderHours.com



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Very early on, I developed a fascination with animals, especially amphibians and reptiles. As a child, I devoured books about the world’s most poisonous snakes, and always clamoured for the television to be tuned into shows like the “Crocodile Hunter” on the Discovery channel. I would proclaim to anyone who would show an interest that I was destined to become a herpetologist. Of course, I would later realize that I was better suited to writing about science as opposed to actually performing scientific experiments, but my fascination for all things STEM continues to grow.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph in zoology. For my honours thesis, which I am hoping to publish soon, I studied the sensory determinants that guide the behaviour of the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) during conspecific interactions. I tried to determine if and how olfactory cues interact with visual cues to provoke a territorial response in the salamanders during their interactions with each other. It was pretty amazing to get to know the behaviour of this amphibian on such an intimate level, especially given its well-documented territoriality.

Role models/heroes:
I am especially appreciative of the work of the prominent science writers of our time. I find journalists like David Dobbs, who wrote a wonderful piece entitled “The Science of Success” for The Atlantic in 2010, and Deborah Blum, who is the author of many a popular science book, especially inspiring. But in truth, the person that has inspired me the most throughout my life is my grandmother, Mariette Dessureault-Duhaime. Thanks to her, the word “feminist” and all its implications were always cast in a positive light in my household. She taught all her grandchildren that fighting for gender equality was a worthwhile and critical battle to wage, and she did so joyfully throughout her life.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I never wanted to stop learning, and being a science writer means that I will never have to. The feeling I get from reading a study about, say, a faster way of DNA barcoding various plants and animals, or a new HIV treatment is indescribable. The only way I can find tranquility is by putting that excitement (or skepticism) into words, and sharing it. Discovering new concepts and ideas every single day is a fantastic way to go through life, and that’s why I love what I do.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I am still at the very beginning of my career, so I feel rather strange about giving advice. That being said, I think that perseverance is a virtue. The scientific method allows, and even plans for, failure, so you should never let that faze you.

Favorite website/app:
I am a big fan of Knight Science Journalism at MIT Tracker Website (http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker). This site is dedicated to peer-reviewing science journalism. It is a great resource for anyone wishing to exercise a more critical eye when reading about new scientific discoveries in the mainstream media.

Website: www.salamanderhours.com
Twitter: @ArielleDRoss