STEMinist Profile: Judith Rubinstein, Data Analyst/Director of Regulatory Data

Judith Rubinstein

Data Analyst/Director of Regulatory Data

Context Matters Inc

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was greatly inspired by the space program as a child. Judith Resnik was a defining influence in my childhood. When I was in 4th grade I got glasses, and knowing I could never be a pilot I began my plot to be an engineer. I assumed that I would be an aeronautical engineer well into my teens. In high school I took an AP biology class and I fell in love. There is so much we don’t know about biology and it fits the pieces of chemistry and physics together in such interesting ways. My college applications were all to biology heavy schools and schools with biomedical engineering programs.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I worked on was working in environmental education as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jordan. Jordan is such a water poor country and they are using their non renewable water sources to meet their needs. I worked with girls to improve their understanding of their environment and what they could do to protect and advocate for it. Jordan is such a small country that individuals can have real impacts in communities and cities.

Role models and heroes:
As I mentioned before, Judith Resnik has always been a hero. She and Sally Ride were such good friends, and Sally Ride really led a lot of the repercussions for NASA after the challenger explosion. Their friendship was something I really understood and related to, especially when the world was telling me that there are only so many spaces for women in certain areas and that you’ll often be competing with other women for particular jobs.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson was also a role model. He went to my high school and came to speak to my astronomy class senior year. Although I was interested in a career in biology I still had my eyes on the sky.

Probably my third set of roll models were the women who played in the WNBA the first season: Teresa Weatherspoon, Kym Hampton and Sue Wicks. They were all older players, probably in their thirties, and they had been playing basketball for so long, waiting for us to have a league. It takes a kind of dedication to do that, and some real faith in the fact that what you’re doing is worth it. I spent some nights waking up to feed cells at 3am because new cells need to be fed regularly. It was a 20 minute walk down a mostly deserted street in the dark to the lab. It wasn’t easy, at least not mentally, to do that kind of thing. But I had good examples of the pay off in my past.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
I love seeing the way that things fit together. My job involves a lot of attention to detail and looking at different data points, but when I do it I can see how everything tells a story. I work in pharmaceutical data, and I’m always interested to see the kinds of things that we can do now. In the last two years we cured a virus! Cured!

If you had told me that we could do that when I was in high school I would have laughed. But it opens up so many possibilities to treat all kinds of illness. And the story that everyone is telling is how much it costs to cure a virus. If you hear it from the outside you miss the magnitude of the science. There is real potential to help people here. The cost isn’t a trivial barrier, but it certainly isn’t the whole story.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I have a firm belief that everyone can do any job, with the right training and an open mind. But that means that you need to seek out the skills, and you need to be open to trying things differently. Then you have to own what you can do. The beauty of science and engineering is that you don’t have to have the answer memorized. You can figure it out. You should figure it out for yourself anyway, because you might have a better way of doing things than anyone else.

Favorite website or app:
My favorite? That’s a hard question. I might have to go with 538. I love to read about the math behind things. I love to look at how they put their models together. But in terms of things I use the most, it’s definitely books on tape or podcasts. There are podcasts for everything, and I listen to them all the time. They’re great for a commute because even on a very subway nobody I’m not throwing my elbows out at anyone trying to read a book.

Twitter: @jujulr


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