Browsing Tag

academia

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: Stéphanie Couvreur, Physics PhD Student

Stéphanie Couvreur

Physics PhD Student

Université Paris Diderot – Matière et Systèmes Complexes Laboratory



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I think curiosity was my main motivation to pursue a career in science, the curiosity of understanding the world around you. As a child, I had always wanted to become an archaeologist. When I grew up, I participated in excavations and during the same time, at school, I was really enjoying maths and physics, their way to explain phenomena. So I decided to study science and more specifically physics in order to work at the frontier between science, archaeology and art history in datation and scientific analyses.

I was very lucky to work in this field during an internship in the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (Research and Conservation Center for French Museums). But finally, during my physics studies, I enjoyed more and more hydrodynamics, a field where you directly “see” what you study. I particularly appreciated the beauty of the phenomena, and how you can often observe them in your daily life! For me, understanding them adds a form of beauty to life. That is how I decided to pursue a career in physics and to do my PhD in hydrodynamics.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
During my studies and now as a PhD student, I worked as a science explainer in this amazing science museum in Paris called Palais de la Découverte. The particularity of this museum is science shows: there are about 60 of them every day in many different topics! In the physics department, we deal with various subjects, from basic electrostatics to superconductivity, passing by sound waves. We have the opportunity to use impressive facilities like a electromagnet which reproduces a magnetic field 10 000 times bigger than the Erath’s one, using a current of 500 Ampers!

In this museum, you surprise the public with phenomena they don’t expect, their eyes are shiny and they have an expression of interrogation on their face. Then you explain the science and you make the public happy by explaining to them what is going on. For me, it is amazing to make discovering physics to people in a way they like it. I just want to increase their curiosity towards science. I went to this museum as a child, then as a teenager and now as a physicist and I have always learned so many things there. In particular, interacting with the public brings you a lot of questions, about the pedagogy of course but also about the physics itself.

Role models/heroes:
Sophie Germain was one of the first women mathematician. She had to pretend to be a boy to follow science class in the “École Polytechnique”. She exchanged many letters with Gauss.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love observing phenomena in my daily-life in a new way. For example, at breakfast, when you let flow honey from your spoon to your muffin, the honey spins when hitting the bread; then you mix your cup of tea and tea leaves go in the center of your cup; whereas some tea leaves stay at the surface of the liquid and aggregate…in all these current phenomena, there are some beautiful physics inside. It makes me see the life with another look! 🙂

Advice for future STEMinists?
Go for it, I am sure you will enjoy it! 🙂 For now there are few women in some fields (as physics for example) but don’t be afraid about that, just show you are as smart as a man!

Twitter: @stephaniecouv

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Sarah Bisbing, PhD Candidate, Forest Ecologist

Sarah Bisbing

PhD Candidate, Forest Ecologist

Colorado State University – Graduate Degree Program in Ecology



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have to say that I had no idea I would end up growing up to be a scientist. I have always been creative and curious, and I have always had a deep love of plants. But, I’m from a city-centric family. My family thinks that trips to Lincoln Park (Chicago) and Central Park (NYC) are outdoor adventures. I now work in truly challenging field sites (rainy southeast Alaska, anyone?). Who would have thought?

A fascination with ecosystem composition and function is what really drew me in. I just had to know. Two professors in my undergraduate career, Dr. Paul Alaback and Dr. Tom DeLuca, inspired me – so much so that I went on to get a Master’s degree under their direction. But, I guess I really just followed my passion. Ecology allowed me to explore, ponder, question, problem solve, and be creative.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
One of my dissertation projects is the coolest project I’ve ever worked on. I’m quantifying genetic diversity and gene flow across the range of Pinus contorta (the most widespread pine in western North America). To sample the species for genetic analysis, I traveled across the entire range of the species (from southern California north through Canada to southeast Alaska and east into the Rocky Mountains). This sampling trip allowed me to see the incredible diversity of natural ecosystems across the west AND learn about the ecology of my species.

Role models/heroes:
I am inspired by passionate scientists. There are so many that it is really hard to name only a few.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I learn so much each and every day. There are infinite questions to ask and answers to pursue. I cannot imagine a more exciting, more challenging career.

Advice for future STEMinists?
You CAN do this. Do what you are passionate about, and everything will fall into place.

Favorite website/app:
Well, our Early Career Ecologists blog, of course.

Website: warnercnr.colostate.edu/~sbisbing
Twitter: @SarahBisbing

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Orit Shaer, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Orit Shaer

Orit Shaer

Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Computer Science, co-director of Media Arts and Sciences

Wellesley College



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My first real exposure to computer science was during a chance encounter with an introductory programming course in my undergraduate studies. The challenge of solving difficult problems, the satisfaction of designing an elegant solution, and the thrill of building something with my own two hands, fascinated me. As the software programs I wrote became more advanced, I was energized by the potential of computing to impact the way we work, play, and learn.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current research in Computer Science is in the field of Human-Computer Interaction, an area that is at the border between humans and computers, between the digital world and the physical world. This field is also uniquely positioned at the border between disciplines: computer science, psychology and arts, which makes it all the more exciting.

In my research group, the Wellesley College Human-Computer Interaction Lab, our goal is to invent and study easier, more effective and more enjoyable ways for people to interact with vast amounts of digital information.

One of our coolest projects, which we are currently working on, is to help biologists to analyze and manipulate large amounts of information so that they can develop scientific insights and make discoveries. We utilize advances in human-computer interaction such as multi-touch, tabletop and tangible interfaces to design and build new user interfaces that allow scientists to better organize, relate, and share information. It is exciting to see our interfaces used by scientists and students to study diseases such as Tuberculosis.

Role models/heroes:
I was fortunate to meet some incredible men and women throughout my career. My advisors at Tufts University, Rob Jacob and Diane Souvaine inspired me in their leadership of their professional community and their commitment to educating and mentoring a next generation of scientists.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Computer science in general, and human-computer interaction in particular, are inherently interdisciplinary fields. My research draws upon multiple area of expertise and perspectives, so I often work with a diverse range of collaborators. Each new project presents a new range of problems that require learning new topics and skills, applying creativity, and facing new challenges. I love the intellectual stimulation and the life-long learning.

Also, being engaged in human-computer science research allows me to get insight into the future and to participate in shaping it. In my field of study, science and innovation are tightly coupled and many of the current investigations in human-computer interaction will inform the tools, gadgets, and devices that we will use in the future.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Attend talks and conferences in your field to find out what are the current trends in research, make connections, and inspire your creativity.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) is a fantastic 3-day conference that brings together women in computing from various backgrounds, from undergraduate students to top industry and academia leaders. It is a great opportunity to network, attend workshops on academic and professional development, learn about and share your own experiences with other women.

Favorite website/app:
Springpad: a smart notebook that provides a great way to organize and share documents.

Website: http://cs.wellesley.edu/~oshaer
Twitter: @oshaer

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Leah Ridgway, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering & Electronics

Dr. Leah Ridgway

Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Electronics

University of Liverpool, UK



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was a 4 year-old girl who knew what an axle was! I’ve always been fascinated by why things work and love the buzz when you understand that why. Now my job is to inspire and help student engineers understand the world around us and teach them the tools they need to solve the world’s problems.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I’m keen on finding new ways to use technology to support the learning of a diverse student group. I did a series of videos to support my lectures for students to watch in their own time. I had no idea if it would be successful and I had to get over hearing the sound of my own voice! The feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive; they liked studying at a time which suited them and it stimulated discussions about the content outside of class.

Role models/heroes:
You may laugh, but my role model growing up was a fictional character: Jadzia Dax from Star Trek DS9! She’s a strong female character with an analytical mind and has an incredibly sex-positive attitude.

Part of the reason I don’t have a role model is that I don’t think there were many notable people who I felt I could relate to in any way, thankfully I think this is changing.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because it’s interesting. No two days are the same and there are always new problems to be solved. There’s a lot of creativity involved which I don’t think most people realise until they talk to us.

Advice for future STEMinists?
I wish someone had told me that you don’t have to give up being feminine to succeed in a male dominated industry and don’t let anyone try and bully you into it (sometimes women are just as bad as men for this). I describe myself as a glamorous tomboy in a dress!

Favorite website/app:
I’m absolutely addicted to Twitter. It’s my personalised window into what’s happening in the world around me where I can hear things apart from the mainstream news. I’d also be lost without Dropbox which I use to easily sync files across multiple devices.

Twitter: @verdantstar

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics

Athene Donald

Athene Donald

Professor of Experimental Physics and the University’s Gender Equality Champion

University of Cambridge



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I just always knew, from the time that I had my first physics lesson at around 13, that this was what I wanted to do. I don’t think I thought in terms of a career when I went to university, and I’m sure I didn’t really know what careers were open to physicists. I didn’t think about pursuing an academic career until encouraged to do so by my supervisor during my second postdoc. At each stage I simply knew that I was enjoying what I was doing and feeling challenged. I have never regretted my decision.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Whatever I am working on now is always the coolest project. Working in a university, I have a lot of freedom in what projects I pursue, and I wouldn’t choose a project unless it excited or intrigued me. But the field of work I work in has changed constantly throughout my career. I started off working on the failure properties of synthetic polymers – ‘plastics’ – and now work on cellular biophysics and protein aggregation. Each transition from one topic to another has seemed logical at the time, and the tools I use tend to be similar. My current project on protein aggregation tries to use principles from physics to look at generic factors that determine the types of aggregates that form, but which may apply to very different proteins,including those implicated in diseases like Alzheimer’s Disease.

Role models/heroes:
My physics teacher at (high) school who was always willing to give me her time to stretch me.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Because it’s a constant challenge, with so many things to be curious about and to follow up. There’s always more to discover and be intrigued by.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t believe so many of the myths that float around about why women ‘can’t’ succeed in STEM, and don’t give up at the first setback.

Twitter: @athenedonald

Web: http://occamstypewriter.org/athenedonald/

Profiles

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

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, Lecturer, College of ECST

Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, PhD

Lecturer, College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST)
Cal State University, Los Angeles



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Truthfully, I was inspired by the show Star Trek. I wanted to be the Science Officer for one of the Starships, preferably as Mr. Spock’s assistant. It was also one of the ways I learned English. Watching the show made me take my science studies more seriously, and as I grew up on the beach the decision to be an oceanographer was an easy one. While doing my undergraduate degree I became very interested in the issues regarding water pollution and also sustainability, which inspired me to continue my studies and get a doctorate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering (Iowa, ’08).

I grew up in Mexico, and we lived in an area that frequently had no power or running water. Many times my homework was done by the light of oil lamps. So that instilled a desire to get ahead and I knew getting an education was my best option. Everyone faces challenges; it’s how you respond to them that matters.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Currently I have a class that is designing a low-cost single occupancy home to be placed in an urban environment of a developed country. My students have decided to use cargo containers for their designs, and will be submitting their work to an international competition. It is exciting to see their creativity and what they come up with as they are not limited by what “should” be done.

Overall, the coolest was when I was a whale watching guide in an ecotourism camp in Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I met a lot of people while living in a 1 sq mile island that had solar power, sea-water enzyme compost toilets, solar water heaters, and no electronics. It was my first experience living such a green lifestyle and I loved it. Also touching the whales was an incredible experience. I can now say I have touched the belly button of a wild gray whale. :-p

Role models/heroes:
U2, for inspiring me with their music and helping me become aware of social justice issues, and both my Abuelita (grandma) & Mom, who pushed me to succeed and get an education.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love seeing my students become aware of STEM related issues, and also when they realize that they truly have mastered material they thought was out of their league. I work primarily with traditionally underrepresented students, so being a role model and mentor is something I take very seriously. Teaching STEM is challenging, as you have to really know the material and be able to explain it so different people can understand. It also keeps you up to date, as keeping the material relevant is important so I am always learning about the subjects I teach so I can put the concepts from the textbooks into context for my students.

Advice for future STEMinists?

  • Believe in yourself, and do not listen to anyone that tells you that you are not able/good enough.
  • Find a mentor(s) and maintain the relationship(s), thank you letters go a long way.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help, it is an incredibly important skill to have and very hard to learn.
  • Apply to everything no matter what it is: jobs, scholarships, workshops, internships, etc. Do not disqualify yourself from anything by thinking you are not good enough. Always apply!
  • Learn to say NO and don’t apologize for it. Guys don’t sweat it, neither should you.

Favorite website or app:
I love Inhabitat for all things green, it is very easy to navigate. I really enjoy Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest as it shows how people can live in much smaller homes than what the average person has, and still be comfortable. It inspired me to move to a place that is about 360 square feet.

Twitter: @water_n_science is my professional account, @EnvPhD is the account I use for my classes and students.

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Catherine Klapperich, Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Catherine Klapperich

Catherine Klapperich

Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Boston University



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was a lone wolf! I did school newspaper in high school and wasn’t really encouraged in science by teachers. I intended to go to Northwestern to study journalism and changed to the school of engineering in my first semester — simply because I thought it was cool!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
What I do now is very cool! But the project that hooked me was part of a freshman seminar course at NWU. We were allowed to use the SEM in the Materials Science Department to do any project we chose. I looked at bugs, up close and personal. They let me use the machine by myself, and at 18 years old, that felt like incredible power!

Role models/heroes:
My graduate mentor, Lisa Pruitt and my post doc mentor, Carolyn Bertozzi. I owe so much to both of them.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love my job because I am in charge of my intellectual life. There is no substitue for that kind of freedom.

Advice for future STEMinists?
The best “outreach” you can do is to be a good example to others. Work hard, be creative and be nice!

Favorite website or app:
Twitter and Mendeley!

Twitter: @DrKlapperich
Website: www.bu.edu/klapperich, www.facebook.com/klapperichlab

Profiles

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