STEMinist Profile: Ellen Kendall, Student Researcher

Ellen Kendall

Student Researcher

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio, USA)

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I started conducting experiments in my basement as a freshman in high school. I got involved with regional science fairs, and slowly progressed to the state, national, and international level. I never had much equipment or resources, but I was always curious and inspired to create.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Over the past four years in high school, I have developed an inexpensive and renewable water filter that removes heavy metals from polluted water. This filter is made out of a chemical derived from seaweed, and it can be used to stop heavy metal pollution in the environment and can be used to purify drinking water in the global community.

This is the coolest project I have worked on because I have worked on the project in my basement, but its impact can be very large. This project reminded me that STEM does not always have to be expensive or complicated. All that is needed is a will to find a cure and the energy to push your ideas forward. I was 13 when I first presented this project, and it has now gained international recognition.

Role models and heroes:
SO MANY. There are so many role models in STEM, and there is no possible way I can list them all out. In history, Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie are very influential for their confidence and efforts to pursue their careers in science. As a NASA nerd, I look up to Eileen Collins and all of the current female astronauts and DoD scientists.

On a personal note, I look up to some of my friends who have made large impacts in STEM fields at early ages. One of my close friends, Jack Andraka, developed a method to detect pancreatic cancer by a simple urine test strip. Jack developed this test at the young age of 15, and he now is a public advocate for STEM and innovation in youth.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love STEM because there are so many problems in this world that can be eradicated by science. My high school sponsored a school in Uganda, and the school lacked access to clean drinking water. As a high school freshman, I was able to research inexpensive water filters from my home in the USA. STEM allows me to be creative on a daily basis. I love having a job where there is no right answer, and I can get my hands dirty and try again time after time.

STEM is a global initiative that is not bound by race, ethnicity, politics, or stereotypes. On each project, we constantly build off of the people that have come before us. STEM has allowed me to become an active member in the global community- it has given me the opportunity to become connected to international students and cultures that I would have not had the opportunity to learn about without STEM.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Where there is a will, there is a way.

STEM is not about who has the best training or resources, rather it is about the passion you have for a better world. As a young female scientist, I was worried that I could not compete with the big kids with the university level education or equipment, but I went for it anyway. Follow your passions regardless of gender stereotypes or age!

Favorite website or app:
Anatomy 4D, Wolfram Alpha, Pinterest, TED, Facebook, Twitter

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