Dr. Rebecca Kellum is an associate professor in Cell Biology at the University of Kentucky. Her career took many turns to get her to where she is today, and she is proof that life works in unforeseeable ways. She was brought up in a traditional home in Mississippi, where she attended the first two years of her undergraduate education at the Mississippi University for Women. Molecular biology, which is one of her passions, was just being developed during her undergraduate years. She then went two the University of Central Florida for the last two years of undergraduate career, where she majored in Allied Health Sciences, then went back to Mississippi University for Women for her master’s degree. After a few years off teaching horticulture to special education students, she went to Princeton for her Ph. D in Molecular Biology and completed her Post Doc in San Francisco. After having a faculty position in Montreal Canada, she finally came to the University of Kentucky where she has been ever since. She says that she has always been motivated to study and understand Science, and while she has been a minority by being a Woman in STEM, she has never felt limited by her institution or her peers for being a woman. She has been published in more than a dozen publications and describes research as “mind expanding”. While research has many highs and lows, she describes teaching as fun and not as much of a rollercoaster. Her advice to any woman looking to go into scientific research would be to make yourself as marketable as possible so that your research can be fundable. She says that it is important to remember that what one does in their post doc will determine their career—so do what makes you happy from the start. It is important to think about what environment one would like to do research in, so picking a field should be done carefully. She encourages women to never feel discouraged and to act on their passions.
Mrs. Megan Winfield graduated from Centre College with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science before coming back to UK for her MBA in 1998. She is currently working as a SrDirector in Application development for Hilton Hotels Worldwide where she is responsible for delivery and support of IT systems including reservation, property management, and technology stacks for the cooperation. She travels a lot, both nationally and internationally, to work with her teams that are in Washington D.C, Texas, Tennessee, China, and India. During her time in college, Mrs. Winfield was the only female student in her Computer Science class and also the first female graduated in Computer Science from Centre College. It was her advisor, who was also a Computer Science graduate, who completely supported her decision, “My advisor was a huge advocate for women in science, and specifically in computing, so she used to take me to middle schools to talk to kids about why I have chosen my career, why I was into it, and what my advice was…”. During her visits, she noticed that: “Something seems to happen in middle schools with girls where they get turned off from math and sciences. They don’t want to be nerdy, they don’t want to be seen as they are into school”. She advises young women who want to pursue STEM to “…have a foundation first, the more math and science you have taken, the better your foundation is for going into those fields, and also the more you know about what you like, what you don’t like, and how to choose a path that actually is something that you are going to excel at…As you go down the road, I think it’s important to ask for help. Women in particular are not great at that, we like to figure things out ourselves and suffer in silence for a really long time. I think that is one thing that we need to get better at because the difference between people that are successful and are not successful is the people that can get help, and be able to know how to navigate around it. And don’t be afraid to take risks!”
Picture source: https://radaris.com/p/Megan/Winfield/
Ms. Szubertis a selfless and involved member of the science community at the University of Kentucky. She is a double major in chemistry and neuroscience, is on the pre-med track, and is minoring in spanish. Madeline spends her free time tutoring her peers both privately and at The Study in science-related topics, and is always offering to help fellow students outside of these areas! Szubert“enjoys challenging herself and asking questions,” and chooses to tutor her peers in order to perfect her understanding of chemical sciences. When interviewed, she said she believes women in STEM fields are important because they “think more holistically than men,” and are more motivated to do their jobs well because of the sexist stigmas toward them. Due to the negative stigmas surrounding women, Szubertsaid it is easy to get discouraged when pursuing a difficult career in a medical or science-centered practice, especially when competing with men for selective positions. However, it is important to keep chasing that goal, regardless of the hardships, because if you want something enough, you should be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Her advice to other young women in STEM is to “just do it, [and] pursue your passion, even if it seems like a challenge!” We women in STEM wish you well in your studies, and thank you for your contributions to the science community so far!
Ms. Dixon was drawn to the pharmaceutical field because of her interests in math and science, and chose to pursue pharmacy after attending the PEPP program at the University of Kentucky. She claimed that it showed her “how closely the pharmacists got to work with and build relationships with patients,” and felt it was the best opportunity for her to use her talents in math and science to improve the lives of others. As a current PharmDcandidate, Callie leads a group of first-year pharmacy students in a research-based project that is geared toward “modifying patient behavior in order to reach their health related goals.” She believes that female presence in any science related discipline, particularly healthcare, is important because it allows for other women to feel more comfortable and open while seeking medical treatment, for it is easier for a woman to understand another woman. Some problems that she believes are pertinent in her field, which is commonly dominated by males, is the unprofessional stigma surrounding women in healthcare, as well as not being taken seriously by patients. She explained that people commonly assume that she is in nursing school, and question her abilities within pharmacy solely because of her gender. Her advice to other women in any science related field, when faced with these hardships, is to be confident with yourself, ignore the disrespect, and work to prove that you are at the same level as any male! We wish Callie the best as she continues her education as a pharmacy student.
Dr.Skaffis no stranger to hard work and dedication, and is a highly respected member of the dental, College of Health Sciences, and University of Kentucky communities. She began her studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dentistry in 1968, and has since then received multiple awards to recognize her hard work and expertise. To name a few, Dr. Skaffhas earned the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, as well as the Alfred C. Fone’sAward from the A.D.H.A. because of her lifetime achievements and contributions to the dental hygiene community. She continued her studies and received her M.S. from the University of Columbia Teachers College and School of Dental & Oral Surgery, then completed her Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky College of Education. Dr. Skaffis currently leading students in research to study the abilities of medical students to spot medical errors, and is also working to integrate oral health and primary care. As a distinguished figure and eight year chairman for the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, Dr. Skaffbelieves that some of the most pertinent issues involving women in science-related fields are the pay differences and the number of promotions. Her advice to young women in STEM, when experiencing these issues, is to not let the adversity keep you back, and to work hard to achieve anything you dream of, for it will be your experiences and qualifications that will put you ahead in your career. Dr. Skaffstands out to her students as an honest, hard-working professor that is dedicated to helping her students improve themselves in any way to help them become the best healthcare professionals possible. We thank Dr. Skafffor her leadership and devotion to her students, education, and oral health, and wish her well as she continues her career at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences!
Audrey Stoess, a senior at the University of Kentucky, is earning a degree in physics- a major where only 22% of physics degrees are held by women. After graduating from UK, Audrey plans to continue her research in astronomy which she started at the UK observatory last summer. Her research consists of measuring the light of stars and detecting unknown planets. In addition to her research, Audrey assisted the UK physics department in being accepted into a program through NASA.
Audrey’s passion for astronomy began when she was 8 years old, the moment her parents bought her a telescope. With the support of her parents, friends who are also involved in STEM fields and her physics II professor, Dr. Fatemi, Audrey has discovered the endless possibilities of getting a degree in physics. However, Audrey admits that she has found herself a victim of the Confidence Gap, as she finds herself being the only female in majority of her classes. Many times her opinions have been ignored and disregarded simply because she is a woman. This is why she advocates the importance of women pursuing careers in STEM, so that girls like herself have role models to be inspired by.
Nonetheless, Audrey feels that the negative stigma of women having careers in the STEM field is finally starting to move in the right direction. “People are starting to realize that women are just as smart as men,” says Audrey. She feels proud to be a woman when seeing news about women’s marches and women’s rights. Audrey wants any girl who is considering a career in STEM to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. “Follow your dreams and prove them wrong.”
Coming from a family who emigrated from Burma, Jazmin Iannuzzi-Brown values her education in STEM and is proud to be a woman in her field. When asked who her biggest mentor throughout her life was, her answer was easy. “My mother grew up in Burma where it was seen as a waste of money to send women to school. When she came to the United States she loved that there was a different message; that women were encouraged to earn an education. I realized early on that being able to attend college is a privilege,” says Dr. Iannuzzi-Brown. As for choosing to enter the world of STEM, she knew that she always had a passion for studying prejudice and racial discrimination. Although there were several routes she could take to research those topics, she chose to take the psychology route when she discovered her interest in the experimental science.
Dr. Iannuzzi-Brown graduated from Princeton University as an undergraduate student, and from the University of North Carolina as a graduate student. She chose to come to the University of Kentucky (UK) as we have a reputation for our strong psychology department and has been with us for three years. She loves the fact that there is equality when it comes to men to women ratios in the psychology department at UK. She points out that although women are starting to become more interested in STEM at the undergraduate level, there is a particular interest from women at the graduate level for psychology. She hopes that other fields of STEM follow suit in years to come.
As a new parent, Dr. Iannuzzi-Brown has noticed the necessary change in lifestyle when it comes to work-life balance. She makes sure that she is all business while at work so that she does not have to bring work home with her when she leaves the office. Admittedly, Imposter Syndrome is something that has to be overcome in her daily life. Nonetheless, she encourages young women pursuing a career in STEM to find good mentors and build a strong support system early on. “Having a social network can help you achieve anything and it is important to remember that there are always people who can help you. With that being said, always have gratitude. There is no way you can get to where you are without the help of others, so always be thankful.”
Dr. Lisa Blue started out her undergraduate career as a pre-med major – it was a year before she “bumped” into her first chemistry class and wanted to take on the challenge, however, she was unsure what she wanted to do with the subject. After completing a series of internships with Kraft, DAYCO, and the City of Springfield, Missouri, she “fell in love with environmental chemistry and the analysis of environmental samples - it really brought home the impact of what we do on the surface of this Earth and how it affects all of our resources.” Dr. Blue received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with minors in physics and math from Missouri State University (Southwest Missouri State at the time). She also received her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Kentucky and also did postdoctoral research working with radioactive uranium samples and their speciation and mobility in the environment at Washington University in Saint Louis.
Currently, Dr. Blue teaches General Chemistry II, General Chemistry II Honors, General Chemistry II Workshop, and Analytical Chemistry. She also seeks to implement new technologies in the classroom – “Anytime there’s something I can beta test, I’m all over that” she said – she enjoys being a “guinea pig.” As one of the first to implement iClicker by Reef, Sapling, and ExamSoft, Dr. Blue is extremely active in testing out new teaching methods and works to help other professors recognize the power of these tools and apply them in their own classrooms. “What I’m after is making sure that we’re meeting students where they’re at, they use technology. We need to embrace the technology and we need to recognize how the face of our student body has changed. Even in just the five years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen big changes. The first time a student held up their cellphone and took a picture of a slide it was just – it was – that was an “aha” moment for me.”
Dr. Blue’s proudest moments are when her students succeed. “Every time I have that struggling student in a semester and they’re crashing and burning, but they come to me – they get the help – and they finally have that “aha” moment – it’s usually about two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through the semester, but they finally get it and they rally and they come out with a C or a B – the rare A – those are my proudest moments because it’s not the students that get it and it comes naturally to them, it’s the students that, like myself, they bump into the subject and it’s not easy for them. Students can’t believe that here I am with a PhD in chemistry and I’m going “Yeah, I was a terrible student. Look at me now!” But it’s those students who really rally and go after it because they want it bad enough.”
To women pursuing careers in STEM, Dr. Blue advises “Make sure you set your goals - set them high and don’t necessarily set them centered on yourself ... When [Elon Musk] was your age he sat down – and most of us [say] “I want to be this, I want to be that,” – he sat down and said, “Okay, what are the top five problems in the world – I’m going to go after those.” And that’s what he has done. And I think pulling the focus off of ourselves and onto helping others is the key to success. And making sure that what you’re doing makes the best use of your skillset and your interests and your passions.”
Dr. Carmen Agouridis – who prefers to be called Carmen – is a Tennessee native. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering and Master of Science in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Tennessee. She also earned masters’ degrees in Public Policy and Business Administration as well as a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Kentucky. While she began her undergraduate career studying biomedical engineering, her love of the outdoors became overpowering and she decided to pursue a career in stream restoration. As a child, Carmen was unknowingly prepared for a career in male-dominated STEM fields as a result of playing on sports teams with her brother. At the time, her family lived “in the boonies” – and to avoid driving all over the place, her parents told her she had to play with the boys. In the interview, Carmen said, “sometimes people were totally cool and just accepted you just on what you did and then other times it was like, “Well, you’re a girl so you don’t belong at this.” And you would here those things. And I guess I was also very lucky by the fact that both of my parents were like “Being a girl has nothing to do with it – this is how you do things.”
Currently, Carmen is an Extension Associate Professor in the Biosystems Engineering department at UK. She is working on developing a Master Naturalist Program for Kentucky – Kentucky is one of five states that does already have this program in place – which aims to pair organizations with a need for trained volunteers, such as Wild Ones, Floracliff, and LFUCG, with people “who really want to do something meaningful in their time where they feel like they’re giving back.” In addition, she is the project lead for the Expanding Your Horizons conference at UK – a conference which focuses on promoting STEM in middle school girls. Prior to the event, undergraduate and graduate women prepare and develop various STEM related workshops with Carmen and Ellen Crocker. According to Carmen, “it’s like a science fair project in 45 minutes.” Expanding Your Horizons also offer workshops to parents with topics such as “How will I finance college?” and “What’s it like to encourage girls to enter STEM fields?” Carmen is also involved with the stream restoration project near the softball stadium – she hopes to involve as many classes as possible with the implementation of this project from water sampling to the final design of the area.
Carmen’s advice to women pursuing careers in STEM is “Don’t take no for an answer!” She also advises to find good people: “If you can, find what I consider good people - and what I mean by good people, is people that will encourage you, people that will support you, people that are excited about the science, and excited about the ideas and work with those people - avoid people that are negative. It doesn’t matter whatever discipline you are, but if you can find those people to work with that you can learn from and it be a mutually beneficial relationship, that’s who you want to work with.”
Dr. Kelly Pennell is a civil engineering professor specializing in environmental engineering here at UK. Her research mainly deals with looking at biological or chemical contaminants in the environment and how to treat them. Dr. Pennell had aspired to study engineering while growing up, and even back in high school environmental topics interested her. After working in the industry for five and a half years, Dr. Pennell decided to focus on research. She earned a master’s degree at Rose Holeman and a PhD at Purdue University. Before coming to UK, she worked at Brown University and University of Massachusetts.
Interestingly, Dr. Pennell’s husband is also a professor at UK. As an academic couple with young children, juggling home life while both travel often for work has required lots of teamwork. They actually came to UK because it provided them the opportunity to work at the same university and simplify their lives a bit. Despite her strong support system at home, Dr. Pennell has felt social pressure about her choice, as a woman, to lead a big career. Some people will comment about how great it must be that her husband “lets her work,” but no one would ever say that sort of thing to her husband. She also finds humor in the fact that people will give her tips on how to get stains out of her kids’ clothes even her husband does all the laundry. Despite the stereotypes, Dr. Pennell wants young women in STEM not to let anyone discourage them, and she wants them to know that they have talents that are going to be important. She emphasized that women in STEM bring diverse perspectives to the table, which are required for solving the wide range of problems that we face.