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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

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Taryn Musgrave, Chief Operations Officer for Robogals Global

Taryn Musgrave

Chief Operations Office & Full Time Student

Robogals Global


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I just LOVE technology and maths! I always wanted to do something a little bit different and I love being able to solve problems. When I was younger I didn’t really know what I wanted to do… I wanted to work with computers but I didn’t have much thought beyond that. I ended up in an Engineering role and have since then come full circle back to Computer Science. I have always been an advocate of women in STEM roles and I am involved in promoting women in STEM roles as part of my role. I think when a maths problem, an engineering marvel, a physics discovery or a particularly tricky code solution gets you excited you have no choice! I have found my passion.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There have been plenty of cool projects along the way. Each project is different: different challenges and different people. One of the coolest projects was when I was living in Northern Australia. A train had derailed and destroyed a section of track and a point machine. I was on a team of two and we spent the next 12 hours rebuilding this machine from scratch. It involved physical labour, resourceful thinking, problem solving and teamwork to be able to get this machine up and running again. This project gave me a sense of achievement when the machine first operated.

Generally speaking my favourite projects are the ones that have an unexpected outcome and help people. I am a big advocate for volunteering and helping people as much as possible. Sharing knowledge and skills with others develops not only them but myself as well.

Role models and heroes:

  • Amy Poehler – just plain inspirational
  • Helen Pederson – for helping me find the confidence to pursue my dreams. Her Open the Door project provides education and aims to address the issues women face in the engineering industry when returning to the workforce after having children.
  • Karen San Miguel – a fantastic woman who promotes tech to young people through CoderDojo in WA. Also an all-round awesome person.
  • Marita Cheng – founder of Robogals. I would not have the wonderful opportunity I have now if Marita didn’t get the ball rolling.
  • My Husband – he is so patient, kind and supportive. He is such a positive male role model. I am so lucky to have him in my life.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Every day is different! I love to help people and solve problems. In my current role I get to visit schools and encourage girls to think about STEM as a potential career path. There is nothing more exciting than a group of young girls who never knew that their love of maths and science could be part of their future career. The girls that I meet surprise me every time. Their ingenuity and ‘out of the box’ thinking just blows me away. I meet so many older women who have lost that along the way and I want to encourage everyone to become themselves again. Through my different jobs in STEM I have been knee deep in snow fixing track circuits on the railway in England, responding to faults in Northern Australia in temperatures that melted my work boots, and currently sharing the awesome places STEM careers can take you with girls around the world.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Jump! If you find something you love doing, then do it! Happy people are successful people. Work takes up a substantial part of your life so it is important to love what you are doing. If you make a mistake, you learn. If you chose the wrong path, you can change it. Nothing is set in stone.

Favorite website or app:

  • Twitter – I love to tweet! Twitter connects me with the world and lets me discover so many new people 🙂
  • Slack – Newly discovered. It allows me to keep up with my team on a regular informal basis.

Twitter: @tarynmusgrave

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Krista Hasling, Technical Program Manager

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Krista Hasling

Technical Program Manager

Brocade



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Simply the desire to know more and be smart! Growing up, my parents valued education and pushed me into challenging math classes. I don’t think I realized I liked STEM and was pursuing it as a career until my sophomore year in college studying Electrical Engineering. Then I just refused to quit!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The next one! 🙂

Role models and heroes:
My grandparents. They are amazing people that are well traveled and well loved. I would love to be like them at their age – funding 10 (and counting) undergraduate educations, visiting friends all over the world, and building a healthy and happy home. Their retirement life is just an extension of how successful they were in their careers and seeing the rewarding outcome of hard work is a real inspiration for me.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love being able to intelligently add to any conversation and talk to anyone about anything. STEM makes you well-rounded! I don’t think other degrees challenge your mind the same way and it enables so many opportunities with people, technology, and education.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Talk about your goals with others. Taking that first step of picking up the phone to call someone for the first time is the hardest. From there you can only learn more and improve your chances of success. And the more others know about your goals, the more they can help you achieve them!

Favorite website or app:
Professionally: Linkedin because it has everything from interesting articles, great networking, and industry groups to local events, and job searching.
Personally: Ticket to Ride iPad game because I love strategy board games and being able to play anytime anywhere is awesome.

Twitter: @KristaINK

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Raquel H. Ribeiro, Postdoctoral researcher in theoretical cosmology

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Raquel H. Ribeiro

Postdoctoral researcher in theoretical cosmology. University of Cambridge, MAS, PhD.

Case Western Reserve University, USA



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Ever since I can remember I have been been asking questions. Why, why, and why… I would spend hours and hours looking at the night sky when I was a kid, bewildered by that huge amount of space out there. That fascination with the universe soon came across Carl Sagan’s TV series “Cosmos”. My career path was sealed.

From then on, I wanted to study as much maths and physics as I could. I wanted to know how it all worked: how stars were born, why were they irradiating, why were they twinkling in the sky. But most of all how did it all come from. Somehow the ability of asking questions was always there with me, and it fueled my desire to understand more. It wouldn’t matter much which subject we were talking about: biology or chemistry, maths, or any other. But it was with physics mostly that I felt at home.

It never mattered to me if people were not expecting me to pursue a career in physics. All I wanted was to understand. And now that I’m a real cosmologist focusing on the early universe, all I can say is that I still like to ask questions. That is my way of life.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I would lie if I said I had a favourite project. A project in physics usually arises when someone asks a question about a specific phenomenon we don’t quite understand. If we end up with a neat answer, we write a paper about it as a means to tell our story to other people.

But if I have to pick up one which makes the whole perspective about cosmology as dramatic as it can be, I will pick up my most recent one. By looking at clusters of galaxies and studying its statistics, one might be able to trace some features back into the primordial ages, when the universe was born. In some way, studying clusters is our back door to the early universe.

That means a whole 13.8 billion years of winding the tape backwards in time. It’s the best time machine one can hope for, and the good thing about it is that it is already there, offered by the universe, and we don’t need to build it. Simple and beautiful.

Role models and heroes:
This is a hard one and I’m not sure I have a good answer for it. What I can say is that I did admire Carl Sagan. His own fascination by the cosmos was certainly contagious. He had a very peculiar way of talking about it, as if every step was filled with that passion for discovery. Also, you could see how much imagination and creativity plays such an important role in a physicist’s life.

By drawing comparisons between completely different events in science, sometimes we are able to learn a lot from one phenomenon, which might enable us to learn more from another. For example, there are mathematical techniques which you can use in a variety of phenomena, in different branches of physics. What Carl Sagan fought me was to keep an open eye for these similarities, as they can help us when we less expected them to.

Also, I hope I have inherited the passion for my job from my Mother. She did set an incredible example to me as far as her dedication towards work goes. I know that is already half-way to fulfilment.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
The ability to keep asking questions as if you were still a child is definitely one of the best things of being a scientist. It’s your work, so it’s the perfect argument to keep wanting to learn more. But really, most of all, it does not feel like work. How can work be so much fun…? When you find yourself in the middle of a breakthrough the rush of adrenaline through your body tells you that is why you asked the question in the first place. Then you jump and ask another one. And you keep going…!

A very nice advantage of our work is that we do get the chance to travel around the world and learn from the best in our field. Scientists are very spread out across the globe, and from time to time they organise conferences from very afar places such as California, USA and Seoul, South Korea, where everyone gets together. We might all come from completely different backgrounds, but in the end we are still trying to understand how the universe works.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Above all, trust in yourself. You don’t need to be super smart to be a scientist. All you need is to let that need to ask questions empower you, and all of the sudden you will find yourself with a career in science. Then be stubborn. Being a stubborn scientist is good.

Favorite website or app:
I am an avid reader of Maria Popova’s website called ‘brain pickings’. It’s a nice mixture of science and culture ingredients, which lets you wander through very different themes. But be warned: very soon you will be completely addicted like me…!

Twitter: @RaquelHRibeiro

Site: http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/r.ribeiro/home.html

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jin K. Montclare, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Jin K. Montclare

Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Polytechnic Institute of New York University



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
While I was always interested in science and math as a young girl, it was through the encouragement of my teachers, mentors and family that led me to my career. I was really fortunate to have had a number of wonderful teachers and mentors throughout my life who cheered me on even when there were times I had doubts about my path.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The beauty about my job is that I am constantly engaged in cool projects with new discoveries and data. Right now, the project that has been occupying my mind has been our “smart biomaterials” work. My students and I designed and fabricated engineered proteins that are comprised of two parts: one that can form a cylinder for binding small molecules/drugs (derived from a coiled coiled protein) and another that can assemble/disassemble as function of temperature (from elastin).

When fused, the resulting hybrid proteins self-assemble into nanoparticles that can encapsulate drugs and upon sensing a particular temperature, trigger aggregation and release. These materials have interesting implications in medicine and drug delivery.

Role models and heroes:
I believe I have been extremely fortunate to have in my life a set of role models (both men and women) that have played a significant role in shaping my career. These include my teachers, professors, advisors and colleagues. However, the most influential role model in my life has been my grandmother. She was a living example of persistence, diligence and character.

She had lost her husband and had to raise four very young children while working as a nurse at an orphanage. Through sheer determination, she was able to successfully raise her children into adulthood as well as help raise me and my brother. She was the one who came over to the US and sent money to bring all her children over. Her strength during her incredible life has been a source of support for me and when I am in a predicament, I draw from her strength.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM as what I do as a scientist/engineer and educator can really make a difference in the world. The research on the proteins we fabricate in the lab have implications in medicine, electronics, energy and the environment. The lessons I teach can inspire the next generation of scientist/engineers.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice to others is to follow your passion and surround yourself with support. I fully recognize that the STEM path is not easy, but I can attest that it is rewarding. While there may be individuals who may question or belittle your decisions in pursuing STEM, I suggest you develop selective hearing in which you simply tune down those individuals and tune those who support you.

Favorite website or app:
Twitter, Evernote, Lewis Dots (our chemistry app)

Twitter: @jkmontclare

Site: Tumblr, Faculty page, Facebook, Research Lab

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Kari L. Jordan, Graduate Research Associate, Engineering Education

Kari Jordan

Kari L. Jordan

Graduate Research Associate

The Ohio State University Engineering Education Innovation Center



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and am currently a Doctoral Candidate in Engineering Education. I was inspired by my father. He works for Ford Motor Company as President of the UAW. I grew up around cars, and my mother even allowed me to participate in the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). Because of my parents’ encouragement I attended the Minorities in Engineering summer program at Michigan Tech University while I was in High School. I went on to receive two degrees from Michigan Tech and this December I’ll be done with my PhD from Ohio State!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I worked on was developing a flow model to predict pressure drop in a diesel fuel system. I did this when I interned at Ford Motor Company. This project was cool because it allowed me to use the skills I learned in my Fluid Mechanics class. I also had a chance to work with my hands in the fuel lab.

Role models and heroes:
My role models are my parents, Dr. Njema Frazier, and the “Chicago Six”. My parents are my role models because they have supported me throughout my long tenure in school and I’ve watched them overcome obstacles I would not have been able to overcome. Dr. Njema Frazier is a nuclear physicist I’ve grown to know and love through our work with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). She is the most passionate woman I know and she’s a genius! The “Chicago Six” are the founders of NSBE and they’re my heroes because I would not have made it through the engineering program without NSBE. My ultimate hero is Jesus Christ. Enough said!

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because a career in STEM will launch you into any career in the world: business, music, fashion, medicine, law, the list goes on. You can literally do anything you want with a STEM degree. Not many people have that privilege.

Advice for future STEMinists?
My advice for future STEMinist is to join some type of mentoring circle. You will not make it through any STEM program by yourself. You are not an island!

Favorite website or app:
My favorite website is www.zumba.com. I am a licensed Zumba instructor and I’m always on our website looking for new music and gear to wear in my classes! My favorite app right now is Instagram. I’m a bit addicted to posting random photos!

Twitter: @elle_kari

Site: www.iamkarielle.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Karin Remington, Chief Technology and Science Officer

Kate Remington

Karin Remington

Chief Technology and Science Officer

Arjuna Solutions



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was quick at learning math facts as a kid, and with that head start, I lucked into seeing more advanced mathematics, starting with algebra, with the eyes of a kid: solving equations seemed like a fun game to me. In college and graduate school, I was challenged and humbled – but started seeing how my math courses helped with my science courses, and vice versa, and how my “game” way of thinking (which I now realize was developing ‘algorithms’) was really a bridge to computer science.

I don’t know that I was “pursuing a career in STEM” – I just kept finding ways to stay involved with something that seemed like play.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Best project ever: Genome assembly of the fruit fly. I was part of a small group at a start-up company called Celera Genomics that was banking on us being able to apply “whole-genome shotgun sequencing” to eventually obtain the sequence of the human genome. The fruit fly was our test case. We in the computer science group (which we called the “Assembly Team”) all were so excited by the challenge, knowing that if we could assemble the fruit fly genome, we’d be able to assemble the human genome as well. We worked long, long hours, but we all enjoyed a sense of shared mission and camaraderie.

We were in a set of cubicles, and would talk over the partitions, to troubleshoot problems. We’d meet in a “war-room” several times a week to make sure we were all going in the same direction. And we were able to cheer (literally) when the genome finally came together. The guys I worked with on this project are still my dear friends. Many of us have worked together on later projects, all very very cool, but this project really brought us all together with a huge challenge, and forged friendships and ideals that will last a lifetime.

Role models and heroes:
J.Craig Venter: I worked with Craig for many years, and love his amazing ability to take an intuition or idea and turn it into a project with resources and shared enthusiasm to reach the targeted goal.

Jeremy Berg: Jeremy led the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences from 2003-2011, His training is in chemistry, but he was an active champion of computational biology, informatics, and mathematics at NIH during his tenure. He recently joined Pitt, and is leading its newly established “Institute of Personalized Medicine.”

Jill Mesirov: Jill is director of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the Broad Institute, and is an accomplished researcher in the fields of bioinformatics, genomics and computational biology. She’s got a great research program, and also finds time to speak with a strong voice on many committees that significantly influence federal research directions.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I enjoy being able to indulge in play while I work. Developing algorithms seems like play to me, so when that is my agenda for the day, I am really happy.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Network!

Particularly with other women in STEM fields. And across levels… don’t be shy to approach funding agencies, etc.

I’ve had a number of projects where all seemed lost, but the women involved were the force that made things turn around to success.

Favorite website or app:
google.com

Twitter: @remingka

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Tatiana Aires Tavares, Computer Science Professor / Researcher

Tatiana Aires Tavares

Computer Science Professor / Researcher

Federal University of Paraiba / SUNY Oswego



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Well, I was always a curious child. I liked to play with things I could create. For example, I remember that I loved to play playmobils with my cousin. We could create our own stories and toys. But I was really introduced to science in my high school. My lab classes were amazing to me. At the same time I was introduced to computing. A basic programming course in DBASE III taught me of things that I could create with a machine. I discovered that I could create in the machine variables, reserved words and programs. Wow! The result was my decision to pursue a degree in Computer Science (1998).

But it was not enough…my master’s degree in Computer Systems came soon after (2001). And then the PhD was the next step (2004). In the beginning a PhD in Electrical Engineering was a little scary, but before as I could imagine the “mission impossible” became a “mission accomplished.” I realized that I could have a career in science when I was at a university teaching science. I was surprised by my academic performance in science. It seemed like a Peter Pan experience; just like when I was a child, I could be curious and create things. Awesome!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
It’s a hard question. Each research project that I have participated in during a decade career span (better forget the time!) was unique, special and a leading growing experience. In Computer Science, we define a project as a unique experience. And that is it! Each project has its own team, ideas, problems, technologies and solution. Computer scientists are always running after the best solutions.

An example of a good solution was ICSpace. ICSpace (or Internet Cultural Space) was a project that I worked on for almost 3 years. More than 20 people worked on this project: computer scientists, artists, engineers, educators. We created and built a virtual shared space. We put together robots, real visitors and avatars. The best result of this project was to teach that computing scientists could work in art galleries and think out of the box.

Talking about cool projects, I remembered the Arthron tool. Arthron was created and developed during GTMDA project. GTMDA project was supported and funded by RNP (Brazilian National Education and Research Network). This research project was also the first approved project coordinated by me. GTMDA involved a great team of professionals and students. The solution (Arthron) is used for artists to create their own plays. Arthron is a software that manipulates video streams used in telematic dance shows. Putting together computer scientists and artists was a singular experience. Sometimes the artists were programming while the programmers were dancing.

But, as computing scientists, we can do better than developing solutions, we can teach people how to create their own solutions. More than a social aspect – so important to digital inclusion at Brazil- this kind of project tests our capacity to multiply knowledge. And, science is made to be multiplied. Last year we worked in a poor community nearby the university at Joao Pessoa. Ms. Zeza is a special lady who takes care of the community children; she believes that studying is the best way to rescue children from poverty and drugs. We bought her idea; me and 8 computer science students introduced the computer to almost 40 children between 7 and 14 years old. It was a rich experience for everyone.

Role models and heroes:
I preferred a feminist heroine – Wonder Woman. The Wonder Woman who showed me that beauty, brains and strength can work together, and science needs all of them.

One of my role models was my undergraduate advisor, Ms. Eliane Diniz, who showed me that science is done with bravery and heart. Bravery to go beyond the classroom, to fight for improvements for all in difficult times; heart to feel how to extract what each one does best.

My PhD advisors, Mr. Lemos and Mr. Gonçalves, were my other role models; they showed me that science is done with hard work and passion (yeahhh!). Hard work to develop our own solutions for non trivial problems. Passion, because pleasure causes us to work hard.

Finally, my project partner, Ms. Zeza, showed me that science is altruistic. Science is done for the collective benefit to change society for the better.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Freedom is the first word that comes to my mind; freedom to think about things that most people don’t have the time to even consider. We can spend days, weeks, months or years making and answering our own questions. We can always change. Changes are always welcome! We can put together people to think with us because two heads are better then one! Working in STEM allows us to build our own creations and observe how the world appropriates it. It is a rich, interactive and fascinating process!

Advice for future STEMinists?
Working hard you can go far. It is really true. Enjoy Math, Physics and Logic! Look at the difficulties as great opportunities. Remember that challenges are always welcome. A mission that seems impossible with hard work, becomes a mission accomplished. Somewhere in time, someone used magic words to me: “You can not …”. I took it as a challenge and a great opportunity to say, “Yes, I can ..” and here I am. Yes, YOU can ☺

Favorite website or app:
The Internet is full of nice things. Enjoy it!

Twitter: @tatiaires

Site: http://tatiana.lavid.ufpb.br/

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Joanne Kamens, Executive Director, Addgene

Joanne Kamens

Executive Director

Addgene, a non-profit biotech



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
How could I not? I was a scientist early on and never lost the bug. Maybe the interest in biology started with my crazy but excellent biology teacher in 10th grade and learning about Mendel’s peas in genetics, but I was a serious math geek long before that.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I have had a long and varied career at work and exciting volunteer experiences as well. I guess my coolest work project is my current one–Addgene. Addgene is a non-profit repository for research reagents called plasmids. We help life scientists all over the world share their plasmids for their experiments. Addgene started small but now has over 20,000 plasmids in our library and sends out over 350 a day all over the world! My coolest non-work project was starting the Massachusetts chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and watching it grow to over 300 active members.

Role models and heroes:
There are so many cool women and scientists out there–I have a new hero every day. Today my hero is one of the admins in our office. She went to a conference and watched Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post speak and then emailed her. Ms. Huffington invited her to write a blog for The Post. I have a soft spot for Ada Lovelace…one of the founders in computing and I am related to Millie Koss, another leading woman in tech who recently passed away. I could go on and on.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
Who wouldn’t? I don’t do science, I am a scientist. Of course I love it.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Be bold. Find mentors – lots of mentors. Ask for help and pay it forward when you get it.

Favorite website or app:
Has to be my site www.addgene.org but I also admire Constant Contact and must admit a soft spot for the ever amazing Google.

Twitter: @jkamens

Site: www.linkedin.com/in/joannekamens