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Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Emily Rose Jordan, Ph.D. student in Neuroscience

Emily Rose Jordan

Emily Rose Jordan

Ph.D. student in Neuroscience
University of Cambridge, Gates Cambridge Scholars



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always been interested in travel and in human behaviour, so I initially pursued a major in Anthropology at university. However, I was also required at my university to take a certain number of science classes so I ended up signing up for a course on human decision-making and judgement, thinking it would relate to my anthropology courses. My TA was an amazing and interesting woman and I ended up working with her in her lab for a semester. Once I realized how creative and fun it was to do research in science, I was hooked. Being in the lab is so different to reading a textbook or sitting through a lecture, and it requires teamwork, which I love.

I am so glad that my university had that science requirement and that I tried something new because otherwise I never would have realized that I was completely fascinated by the human brain. While in anthropology I could observe human behaviour, in neuroscience I could actually manipulate it and conduct groundbreaking experiments. I was also lucky to find a great mentor like my TA, who encouraged me to pursue my interests even when it seemed daunting to change my major and take on a research project.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I worked on an experiment where we were able to show that social enrichment changes behaviour in mice and that these changes are passed to their offspring ‘epigenetically,’ or without actually changing the genetic sequence, but rather the expression of those genes.

Role models/heroes:
My teachers and professors who encouraged me to become a scientist. At times I was intimidated by a career in science and thought that I was not up to the challenge. I owe my decision to pursue a PhD and my success in winning a scholarship to do so to three key teachers I had in high school and college who saw my passion for science and encouraged me when I might have given up. I remember their words and actions as vivid moments in my career where I began to think “I can” instead of “I can’t”.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working with a team of smart, interesting, international people. That makes it fun to go to work. I also think the brain is a pretty cool machine, so getting paid to figure out how it works is not too shabby.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Take chances. If you are interested in something, go for it even when it seems daunting. Get to know your teachers and professors; they want to help you do your best.

Favorite website or app:
I love listening to the Scientific American podcast Science Talk when I’m working in the lab; it is a fun way to learn about other branches of science.

Twitter: @drsciencelady
Website: Read more about how I got into science and ended up in the UK

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Karen Kuria, Director of Mobile Applications Development

Karen Kuria

Karen Kuria

Director, Mobile Applications Development
Kamilifu Solutions Ltd



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Growing up I was always fascinated by technology and I was a curious child. I needed to know how stuff worked and what made it work. A career in technology came up naturally for me. After my undergraduate degree, I got a scholarship to study a masters degree in the same field.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There is a project I am currently working on together with a team from two different continents. We are collaborating online and sharing code to build an e-reader application that will allow authors to post and sell their work online and users will also be able to download books at a fee using a local mobile payment solution. I am one of the two project managers and it is an exciting thing for me, virtual project management and working with people in a different continent.

Role models/heroes:
I look up to several women in Kenya who despite all odds have made it in the tech field and have been involved in ICT4D projects and a few who work for Google Kenya.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Technology is always evolving and there are new things to learn everyday making it interesting.

Advice for future STEMinists?
You can achieve anything you put your mind to. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Love what you do and things will fall in place naturally.

Favorite website or app:
My favorite app is PesaSmart, an Android app I developed to help me track my expenses.

Twitter: @kareynzs
Website: divas4Tech.org

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jaime Hutchison, Ph.D. Student in Physics

Jaime Hutchison

Jaime Hutchison

Ph.D. Student in Physics
The University of Massachusetts Amherst



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always enjoyed math and science in middle and high school, and I have an uncle who is a physicist. Both my parents and I assumed I would continue on with math and science after high school, however, I rebelled a bit when it came time to make a decision about college and ended up at art school. After art school I entered the work force as a bank teller. In my early twenties I began really missing math and science. I was working hard, but was not being challenged mentally. I borrowed some of my uncle’s physics textbooks and began going through them on my own after work. Eventually I decided to go back to school and ended up getting my bachelors degree in physics when I was 29.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Of course I think the coolest project I’ve worked on is the one I’m working on now! I’m interested in membrane proteins that are able to both sense particular membrane curvature and induce changes in membrane curvature. What I love about this project is that it has required a very interdisciplinary approach. I’m a physicist at heart, but while working with these proteins I’ve learned a bunch of chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

Role models/heroes:
I’m always inspired by scientists (or anyone, really) who doesn’t have blinders on. By that I mean scientists who are sincerely interested in things that are going on outside their particular subfield.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Well, I don’t ALWAYS love it. When things are going well—you’re getting data, and you have some idea of what the data is saying, it’s supremely exciting and makes it all worthwhile. The other side of the coin is the struggle that comes when things aren’t working, or when things are working but you don’t understand what the data is telling you. For me the most difficult part of doing research is overcoming the fear that you have no idea what is going on and that everyone else on the planet must have a better understanding of it than you do. I guess, in the end, I just love the challenge. It’s a challenge to get everything working, it’s a challenge to understand your results in as detailed and precise a way as you can, and it’s a challenge to then communicate those results to the scientific community.

Advice for future STEMinists?
As with any career I would suggest trying to make sure that you’re doing something you love to do (at least most of the time). For me a key part of figuring this out was becoming involved in research as an undergraduate. I was able to get a pretty accurate glimpse into what graduate school and life in the lab would be like.

Favorite website or app:
For STEM-related issues: FemaleScienceProfessor 
For a good laugh: Damn You Auto Correct

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Dawn Fitt, STEM Education Director, BLOODHOUND SSC Project

Dawn Fitt

Dawn Fitt

STEM Education Director
BLOODHOUND SSC Project (SSC = Supersonic Car)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My dad, he was an electronics engineer in the British Army.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I suppose that the coolest project I have been involved with is the one I am presently working on, trying to enthuse and inspire more young people to take up careers in STEM based occupations using BLOODHOUND SSC as a vehicle to raise awareness. It’s a big departure from my time in industry designing engine test beds and later project managing the design, build, installation and commissioning of engine test beds.

Role models/heroes:
My dad was a great role model whilst I was growing up. Others have included Mrs. Wood, my high school maths teacher and in relation to women in engineering: Amy Johnson and Caroline Haslett – both members and past Presidents of the Women’s Engineering Society. Today, I draw inspiration and guidance from my friends and acquaintances in The Women’s Engineering Society.

Why do you love working in STEM?
From the outset, I have always gone home with a sense of accomplishment. When working in industry it was knowing that the item I had designed, worked and satisfied customer wants & needs and today it’s more about knowing that I can make a difference and hopefully inspire one person to follow in my footsteps.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Enjoy what you do and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way.

Favorite website or app:
Of late it’s Finger Physics.

Twitter: @fittdr, @BLOODHOUND_SSC, @WES1919
Website: www.bloodhoundssc.com, www.wes.org.uk

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Michelle Hsia, Materials & Process Engineer

Michelle Hsia

Michelle T. Hsia

Materials & Process Engineer
Contract to Weber Aircraft, LLC



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to do… My brother’s friends kind of pushed me into it since I was good at math and I loved science! I couldn’t figure out what to do that would actually make any money; I didn’t like history or political science or teaching. So, I decided to go into engineering. Then, it was basically a decision between Aerospace or Mechanical. Ultimately, I chose Mechanical.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In undergrad, it was the Formula SAE race car. We won the 2 years I was on the team. The 2nd year, I co-captained. It was an amazing experience; something that shaped my career. In industry, I performed a metallurgical root cause failure analysis on a test aircraft fuselage. It blew up during a test. After about a month and a half looking at all of the fracture surfaces, testing material chemistry, tensile testing material, etc., where everything looked normal, it all boiled down to the fact that there was a piece that was not replaced during routine maintenance. Bolt pattern showed me where the origin was. The part was cycled so much, it finally failed. The video of the fuselage blowing up was pretty cool…

Role models/heroes:
I don’t know if I have any heroes. I had some pretty good mentors, though. Dr. Stephen Kugle was the first professor that challenged me more than what was taught in class. Dr. Bob Woods was a great faculty advisor for Formula SAE. He taught me how to look at the overall/bigger picture. Carroll Smith was a great mentor. I spoke to him a lot about engineering, jobs, etc. It was a sad day in motorsports when he passed away.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I like the problem solving aspect of things. I’m not a design engineer, but I have to know about it to do my job. I’m not a manufacturing engineer, but I need to know that too. I have to know a little or a lot about certain topics to be effective and to help people do their jobs better. Right now, I’m learning about plastics and plastic injection molding. It’s not my area of expertise, but it’s very interesting in a failure analysis aspect. I like that what I do requires me to learn things everyday.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Join the design projects while you’re in school, even if you don’t get course credit! It’s the best way to learn and apply what they teach you in class. Sometimes what they teach you is confusing unless you actually see it. I found out from classes – and a particular professor who taught dynamics – that I wanted to do failure analysis. But I found out from the Formula SAE team that I liked materials. I also found out from my first job that I didn’t want to be a design engineer. Find something that you love and stick with it. Don’t be afraid to try things just because you’re a girl; use it to your advantage.

Favorite website or app:
I think the best app, if you love music, is Shazam or Soundhound. Mostly because when I hear something I like, I can find out what it is and who sings it right away. Since I’m still in school (getting my MBA), I love Dropbox. We all use it; and having the app allows me to access what I need to.

Twitter: @tswei_chen

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Carrie Eaton, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Carrie Eaton

Carrie Eaton

Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Unity College



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Always loved science and math, never considered anything else!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Recently I have been involved with a working group interested in how human social actions interact with the evolution of a community (human or ecological). There are so many really interesting questions and implications. I look forward to applying some mathematical modeling to further our intuition and understanding.

Role Models/Heroes:
Not really, I take my inspiration from lots of different people for the different facets of my life and work.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Lots of opportunities! Such wonderful intellectual stimulation, such an interesting community to work in in terms of the diverse work happening in all fields.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Talk to other men, women, anyone! One of the biggest factors in my individual success was a result of working with others to achieve group goals. I love learning from my peers as much as from my own experience, and these connections will pay dividends later. Collaborations can be just as fruitful as individual labors, if not more. In mathematics, we are often encouraged to lock ourselves alone in the ivory tower in pursuit of the next unsolved theorem, but many other disciplines are begging for us to reach out and contribute our skill set, and communicate across disciplinary boundaries.

Favorite website or app:
Educreate is becoming a favorite app for screencasting problem solutions.

Twitter: @mathprofcarrie
Website: Unity College profile

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Shannon Jaeger, Masters Student in Computer Science

Shannon Jaeger

Masters Student in Computer Science
University of Calgary

Founder, Jaeger eMedia Inc.



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
STEM was a calling to me. I have always been curious about why things are the way they are in the world around me. Enjoyed learning about science in school, however, I felt very alone in this desire. I come from a small town where I may have been the only girl in my grade that enjoyed math. Fortunately I had a female science teacher in grade 8, and a female physics teacher in high school. I’d have thought I was really odd if it was not for having a female science teacher, and I’m not sure that I’d have pursued a STEM career.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Coolest project is probably the first major project. Perhaps because it was the first, perhaps because it was such a great success. I was one of five developers who worked on the Gemini Telescopes Data Handling System, which might still be running at the observatories. The system consisted of 7 client/server processes written in C/C++ with Tcl/Tk user interfaces. It was cool because the software worked well and we delivered it on time and on budget and it is an important part of the observatories’ software system.

Role models and heroes:
Obviously my grade 8 teacher Mrs. Sallows, my physics teacher Ms. Karbeshewski. Later in University: Lady Lovelace. One of my early instructors called me Miss Lovelace; he meant it in a derogatory way but I took it as a compliment.

Why do you love working in STEM?
As stated before, STEM is a calling to me. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love problem solving and unraveling mysteries. STEM careers have plenty of problems and mysteries.

Advice for future STEMinists?
This is not my quote and I do not know the author, however it is what I’d like to pass onto others: “Obstacles can’t stop you. Problems can’t stop you. Most of all, other people can’t stop you. Only you can stop you.”

Favorite website or app:
There are far too many too choose from that I enjoy. However, I am going to pick ted.com. I think the Ted Talks are a rather clever way of sharing ideas to the world.

Twitter: @shannon_jaeger
Website: www.jaeger-emedia.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Aino Vonge Corry, Independent IT-consultant, Founder of Metadeveloper

Aino Vonge Corry

Aino Vonge Corry

Independent IT-consultant, Founder of Metadeveloper



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I always liked math and science and partly as a result of this, I was very good at it, which made me like it even more. And when I wrote my first little program in the programming language Trine (developed at my university) it was a very satisfying experience…like math but with more power. Back then I had just started studying math at the university and had never thought of pursuing a career, let alone one in CS. I just wanted to teach math, but after deciding to major in CS I wanted to be a teacher in CS. Now I teach Java and software architecture at the university and in the software industry. In addition to this, I work as a PC member of IT conferences and facilitate retrospectives.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Creating the technical content in conferences like JAOO, GOTO and QCon is very cool, I think. I get a chance to inspire so many CS people to learn more, by inviting speakers with a vision or experience to share.

Role models and heroes:
Ada Lovelace, Martin Fowler, Kristen Nygaard, Mae West.

Advice for future STEMinists?
You can do anything you want, if you believe in it. And make sure to have your kids while you are at a university. 🙂

Favorite website or app:
iGoogle which has all the stuff I like, rememberthemilk, PvZ

Twitter: @apaipi

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Lara Eakins, Astronomy Outreach and Instructional Technology

Lara Eakins

Lara Eakins

Astronomy Outreach and Instructional Technology

The University of Texas, Department of Astronomy



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
It’s hard to nail it down exactly since I was interested in science from a very early age. My mother was interested in science, particularly space, and science fiction and I know some of that rubbed off on me. I was lucky to be growing up in a great age of the exploration of the solar system when we had spacecraft fly-by photos of several of the planets and the Viking landers on Mars. And then when I was 8 years old, Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” aired. It was sometime in high school that I finally decided that I wanted to study astronomy in college and have been either studying or working in astronomy ever since!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
There are a few dating back to my research days as an undergrad that I am particularly fond of. I was working with the astrometry team measuring positions of asteroids, comets, and the moons of the outer planets as part of several projects including getting accurate positions of two asteroids that the Galileo spacecraft was going to fly past on its way to Jupiter and gathering data that was eventually used by the Shoemaker mission. We also did some of the early measurements of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which eventually impacted Jupiter in July 1994. We measured newly-discovered asteroids to calculate their orbits to see if they were Earth impact hazards and could say that we were doing our part to potentially help save the planet!

Role models and heroes:
I have to mention Carl Sagan, not just because of the inspiration of “Cosmos” but also because he was the first scientist that I can remember who did a lot of public outreach and speaking – something I do now. I would also say Carolyn Porco who is now the leader of the Cassini Imaging Team that brings us all of those amazing images of Saturn and its moons and rings, but I first remember her from her early career work on the Voyager missions. She was the first woman I remember seeing doing the type of stuff that *I* wanted to do.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Don’t be afraid to express your interest in and love of STEM fields, even if you are discouraged. I don’t think the older “girls don’t do that” attitude is explicitly stated now (at least I hope not!), but there can be more subtle signs and attitudes that might discourage you. But if you truly love STEM topics and want to make a career in one of those fields – do it!

Favorite website or app:
For work the one that I use the most is http://www.spaceweather.com – It’s a great site with great information about the sun and how it interacts with the Earth, which is something I talk about frequently with kids on field trips to visit our solar telescope.

Twitter: @LaraEakins
Site: http://about.me/larae