Professor Sarah Edwards currently teaches general chemistry for both chemistry and non-chemistry majors and oversees many of the first-year chemistry labs. She graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and then from Penn State with a PhD. Also, in chemistry. Before coming to Western Kentucky University, she taught a few years at Vanderbilt and one year at UK. However, she describes how her time spent at WKU has been her favorite because the students are so respectful, and she has the ability to work with them one-on-one. Currently, she has been researching protein confirmations along with several students enrolled in the Gatton Academy at WKU (a program for gifted high school juniors and seniors where they attend WKU as full-time students instead of staying at a traditional high school.) While WKU is not one of the highest ranked STEM schools, Edwards describes how first year undergraduates are able to work with professors doing research in labs and interact directly with professors instead of having to go through a teaching assistant who has to go through a post-doctoral fellow who can go to the professor. The atmosphere at WKU is very supporting and the input she gives to her department is taken into consideration and in her opinion is a fantastic place to be involved in the science field. Additionally, WKU has brand new labs nicer than many of the labs at some of the higher ranked school and since chemistry is chemistry no matter what state, country, or continent you’re on, students should focus on whether a university’s atmosphere fits their needs instead of whether that university is the highest ranking. Edwards points out the WKU is making an attempt to build community in STEM because while loving the field you’re pursuing is a requirement to be successful, so is having a network of people around you. She thinks that while all people should form together to help one another out, women in the field especially tend to gravitate towards one another and should form a community not unlike the “brotherhood” that exists amongst men.
Edwards says that she always knew teaching was the career she wanted to pursue and while the level of teaching changed from elementary to high school to college, she decided to become a university professor because it gave her the opportunity to work with research. She first discovered she wanted to pursue science was when in kindergarten a demonstration was done where a banana was placed into liquid nitrogen for a minute or so then after was able to hammer a nail into a piece of wood and thus she believes that sparking children’s interest in STEM at a young age is necessary to show them that science is so much more than just doing worksheets. Her mother and grandmother helped pave the path for her and other women who are interested in pursuing fields in science, however, she thinks that with the push for women to enter the stem field that some may enter it without the love for STEM that is necessary to be successful in the field. In her opinion, STEM isn’t about gender, there is nothing in science that discriminates against it the only thing that matters is performing and repeating experiments. Overall, she has had an extremely positive experience being a women in the STEM field, despite encountering a few people who are just jerks. Furthermore, she describes that if a person refuses to notice that half of the population is able to work in STEM, then that person will inhibit their own success. She describes how someone asked her if she published her work under a male name and while this phenomenon did occur while women like her mother and grandmother were entering their fields, it hasn’t been necessary in this century; so while she acknowledges people with these attitudes exist, when she encounters these people, Edwards uses it as a way to educate them.
Dr. Tracy Livingston is an associate professor of Biology at Georgetown College in Kentucky. She got a B.S in Biology and M.S in Developmental Biology from the University of Kentucky and got her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Livingston knew she wanted to pursue Developmental Biology after meeting one of her mentors at UK, John Just, who she continued to work with through her master’s degree. “John Just was working with frogs and tadpoles and he showed me a tadpole that was huge because they took out the thyroid hormone, which I thought was really interesting,” Dr. Livingston said. This led her to pursue graduate school, where she worked with embryos of frogs, fish and salamanders.
With her master’s degree, Dr. Livingston began teaching at small community colleges, but a different career path eventually caught her eye. “I was reading a biology book in the late 90’s, when CSI was just getting started,” Dr. Livingston said. “Forensic chemistry sounded like a really neat career, so I started applying to jobs and I got a job at Charleston Police Department in South Carolina.” Dr. Livingston worked in this lab for four years, met her current husband, and decided to pursue her Ph.D. at University of Tennessee. At UT, Dr. Livingston helped with many research projects, one including dairy cow cloning. “Cloning makes me excited but hesitant,” Dr. Livingston said. “You can’t take one step forward with cloning without keeping the ethics alongside.”
Dr. Livingston has also conducted a lot of research at her current teaching job at Georgetown. She set up a cell culture lab working with HeLa cells to study implantation, worked with fish embryos for Developmental Biology lab, and studied regeneration in fish. Dr. Livingston also has offered a Women in Science Seminar to discuss women’s issues and women in the STEM field. “I am fortunate enough to never have been in a position where my job depended on me being discriminated against,” Dr. Livingston said.
Dr. Livingston’s accredits much of her strength and inspiration that she shares with many younger women to her mom, who was a strong role-model within her life and career. “My mom worked in a man’s world,” Dr. Livingston said. “She had an industry job where she was a supervisor over many men and she experienced discrimination. She instilled in me a confidence and an attitude to not put up with discrimination.” Dr. Livingston has worked at Georgetown College for fifteen years now and is a role-model and mentor for many students in the STEM field. Her words of wisdom are important for all students, no matter what field they are pursuing: “You have to think for yourself to see what all is out there,” Dr. Livingston said. “Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. However far you want to go, you should go.”
Sydney Norman is currently a senior studying computer science at the University of Kentucky. Last summer she worked for Amazon in Seattle, WA as a software development intern focusing on the Alexa Engine team. She currently serves as a teaching assistant for two Intro to Programming labs for CS215. She uses this medium as a way to engage her younger counterparts and stimulate interest in STEM careers. " I have been a TA for the past three semesters, and I really love it. I don’t anticipate every teaching in the future, but I really enjoy getting to work more closely with some of the younger computer science students and hopefully inspire them to continue in the field". To Sydney, working in a male dominated field isn't necessarily out of the ordinary. "I tend to take more pride in myself because I’m doing something unique for women, but that’s ridiculous because it isn’t like I’m doing anything that most women can’t do. Anyone can be a software developer, they just have to take the time to learn", she remarks.
Sydney emphasizes the importance of not only including female voices in STEM leadership, but other sources of diversity as well, " the woman’s preferences and needs will never be considered if we don’t have a seat at the table, so women need to be in these positions of power and influence and represent their fair share. This goes beyond women, too. We should aim to have all positions of leadership evenly distributed between people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, etc".
She spoke candidly about her experiences with imposter syndrome, recalling her reservations early on as a freshman. "I had never programmed before, so I looked around at all the other white men in my class who knew exactly what they were doing because they had been targeted as future STEM professionals and I thought I would never figure it out. Luckily, I’m a person who is driven by that kind of fear, so I easily caught up and surpassed many of them. I frequently see young women in the classes I TA get freaked out by the same thing, and unfortunately, not all of them move past it. I still get it sometimes, but I try to recognize when it is holding me back and force myself to get over it".
Her advice for women interested in pursuing a STEM career is simple: "More than anything, move past the imposter syndrome. Learn to recognize it and realize that it isn’t real—no one knows all the things you think they know, and you know more than you realize. Also, fake it until you make it. Even if you lack confidence and don’t think you can do something, just try and do it anyway. I guarantee you that most of the guys you see doing stuff are less qualified that you are, they just have an insane amount of confidence because everyone always told them how great they are".
After graduating from State University of New York at Albany with dual degrees in biology and chemistry, Dr. Susan Barron decided to get her Ph.D. in psychology. Additionally, she did a postdoc in San Diego before deciding to start working at the University of Kentucky in order to continue her work while mentoring undergraduate students and teaching psychology classes. She loves serving as a role model to students, particularly female students interested in STEM. Her passion for her research in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) began in college when she started to realize the discrimination and persecution against women who used drugs during pregnancy. For the past 25 years at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Barron has been working to change this stigma while simultaneously researching drugs that have the potential to reduce the effects of FASD. Despite Dr. Barron being aware that there was a gender gap in the STEM field and having to overcome the confidence gap, she found that it was more important to do what she loves and advises all young women interested in STEM to do the same.
Shelley Roberts is the founder of GrassRoots Pharmacy in Lexington, Kentucky where she earned her PharmD degree at the UK College of Pharmacy. Along with being the lead pharmacist at Grassroots and owning her own business, Shelley has also started the cross country and track team at Liberty Elementary School. She is also looking into starting a running non-profit organization so that kids in the community can be more actively involved, while simultaneously promoting daily healthy habits.
Shelley was drawn to community pharmacy because of her love of patient interaction, and she became fascinated by how her role as a pharmacist could benefit the public. “Pharmacy is a perfect profession for a woman who wants it all. Pharmacists are respected health care professionals, but I’m also allowed the time to be active in my community, start a family, and even open and maintain a business. I’m able to pursue and apply my interest in science in math while still having the fulfillment of having time to help my clients and put them first on a day to day basis.”
“Going through pharmacy school I had plenty of girls in my class, but I mostly encountered male pharmacists and professors. As a high school and undergraduate student, I never had a female pharmacist role model to really look up to because the field was mostly dominated by men.” Rather than be discouraged by this fact, Shelley took this as an opportunity to create a new, expectation-free vision for herself of what kind of a leader she wanted to be. “I drew encouragement from being a trail-blazer in itself.” Shelley believes that in today’s society it’s important for women to know that if they have the passion and motivation to work in the STEM field, then that in itself is enough to prove that they belong there. “The pharmacy field has recently had a shift in being predominately women, which I’m proud to be apart of, but there is still the challenge of facing society’s bias that men are more knowledgeable in the field. While working as a staff pharmacist at K-Mart some customers would ask to speak to the male that was interning me, despite the fact that I had been working there for 10 years.”
Shelley wants to encourage women to gain the respect they deserve by being confident in their field of interest and knowing that the potential of having a family shouldn’t limit their career options and opportunities. Shelley advises young women who want to pursue a STEM career to spend time with other women in that field so that they can understand their life trajectory better and see the time frame of where their goals will align more. Shelley also hopes to be a role model for not only women who want to find a balance between achieving their career goals and having a family, but also for her daughters. “If you want to go into a science or math-based field, there’s a place for you in that career as a woman, and you can contribute so much more when you embrace that role.”
Divyangana Rakesh graduated from University of Delhi, one of India's premier undergraduate universities with a B.Sc. in biochemistry. While she was at University of Delhi, she dappled in several extracurricular activities, one of which was debating, "During my time there, I realised my love for public speaking and communication in general and I started to think that my expertise lay elsewhere, not science. This period was rather confusing for me because I found that I loved so many different things and I wanted to do them all, which was obviously impossible. I wanted to teach, read, study history, biology, astrophysics and so much more. My ambivalence led me to doing an MBA from MICA, one of the best institutes in India for Marketing, and I was then recruited by L’Oreal to be a part of their esteemed and selective Management Trainee program in Mumbai, along with a handful of other students. I worked for L’Oreal for around three years as a brand manager. My apathy towards marketing and consumer behaviour became clear to me rather quickly, and this period of my life, while professionally dissatisfying, was important for my personal growth. I learnt a lot about myself, mostly about what I didn not like and did not want to do, which I believe is sometimes more important, because its difficult to know exactly what it is that you want to do for the rest of your life.
While this may sound a little hackneyed and banal, I asked myself to close my eyes and picture my future, and all I saw was an empty lecture hall. I didn’t even have to think about what it is that I would want to teach, I had the answer all along. My interest in neuroscience had been building for several years and it was now time to take it further. I decided to apply for masters programs abroad and that led me to the NeuroBIM program at the University of Bordeaux, which I chose both because it gives one the most research experience, and because of the beautiful location. I am now about to graduate the 2 year research program at the top of my class, and I am searching for PhDs that interest me.
Leaving a life of comfort, accompanied by a fat and steady pay check, was not an easy decision to make. I was conflicted for some time, unsure of my decisions, my calibre and scared of the uncertainty. My family was very supportive of my decision to leave. While I do miss the pay cheques, I don’t miss much else, I’m happy about my choices and I don’t regret having done marketing for five years because I am a better scientist for it. I find that I am able to bring my expertise in communication to bear on my scientific research and I believe that it will continue to stand me in good stead for the rest of my life. I now have the freedom to pursue neuroscience and the time to pursue my hobbies: writing, photography (@candid.faces) and reading voraciously. I believe that it’s important to accept uncertainty, believe in yourself, and pursue exactly what you want, because every other option will fall short."
Sana Bakfalouni is a French entrepreneur working for various administrations and companies around the world.
After graduating as major from ESGI as a cybersecurity engineer, she decided to devote her carrier to the protection of IT systems for some international banking and industry institutions.
Really passionate, this researcher’s daughter quickly developed a great rigor in the execution of her work and is even currently developing her own digital risk management algorithms based on her experience from the field. But she doesn’tstop there, since she decides in 2015 to turn into entrepreneurship by launching her company called Akant which aims to educate its interlocutors about their digital strategies and its risks. "At the beginning of my career, I unfortunately saw how much security was underestimated within companies and in our personal lives. The rise of digital technology has put privacy matter at the center of the game, which is a good thing, but many of us are still misusing these platforms. Pedagogy is the key point if we want to take the right turn and it must start at very early age "explains Sana.
That’s why besides his professional activity, Sana has created an association that is very important to her. The aim? To allow parents and children to come and talk about the use of digital at home and in their daily life. These workshops, completely free and open everyone, provide the opportunity to better understand the place of digital in our lives and enable parents and children to better understand and start with good practices. These meetings, in the form of dialogue and in a convivial place, offer real moments of life and allow to better understand the digital world that surrounds us.
But Sana is also a woman of her time, able to cook biscuits or sew while sending photos to Instagram. Sana thinks you have to give to receive. More than a quote she has made it as a philosophy of life.
Maanasa Manchikanti is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Public Health with a minor in Health Advocacy at the University of Kentucky. She described her journey in college and hopes for the future, "I started college as a Biology major but I quickly realized my passion laid somewhere else. I knew that I wanted to help as many as people as possible, and learning as much as I could about population health, preventative medicine, and health behavior would allow me to do that on a much larger scale. I am wanting to pursue a Master’s in Public Health before attending Medical School; public health is an important topic in the field of healthcare and I want aid in the further development of the bridging of these two fields. Preventative medicine is what I want to pursue as my focus in my Master’s Program and I can combine this with my future MD to provide the best treatment possible for my future patients. Health Policy is another focus that I am passionate about; the amount of healthcare funding that goes towards preventative medicine is a mere 3%. I want my future work to go towards making fundamental changes to the healthcare system and policy to change healthcare for the better.
It is important for women to be involved in the STEM field because we bring a different approach and more diverse knowledge to a problem that has been around for so many years. The hardships that women have to face to advance in this field makes us just that much more motivated to excel and truly solve the problems that impact so many.
Girls and women of younger generations sometimes do not want to pursue their dream due to the stigmas and views society has placed on them. It is important for us to know change these stigmas and show these young girls that there is a place for everyone in STEM, and society should encourage everyone to pursue their dreams whether it be engineering, medicine, teaching, etc."
Dr. Alloway is an extremely impressive psychologist. She explains, "My story began in high school. It was an encounter with a female psychologist that made me realize what this profession was about. I’ve been fortunate to have had amazing female role models who not only showed me that women could be smart and excel in their chosen profession. It is because of their examples that I am here today.
I am a psychologist, author, and TedX speaker. I wear many hats and I love that my job allows me to take on these different rules. As a psychologist and researcher, I have published 8 books and over 100 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. As a speaker, I have had a chance to share my work in different countries and work with organizations like the World Bank. As well as the national media, like good morning America BBC, New York Times, and many others."
Chelsea West is a sophomore in Information Communication Technology at the University of Kentucky. Originally from a small town on the Kentucky/WV border, she spent her childhood years on her mother’s work PC playing around with live HTML editors due to a lack of stable internet access at home. She quickly became proficient enough to build basic websites and has since carried her passion for development all the way to adulthood. Chelsea is primarily interested in UX design and is always looking for better ways to understand user experience – ideally, she says her research will focus on enhancing human-product interaction.
She knows all too well the effects of impostor syndrome, stating that there are some days that make it difficult to feel at ease in her field. “I definitely feel out-of-place sometimes. It’s especially annoying when someone decides to question me about irrelevant, vaguely tech-related things – to be frank, I don’t exactly hear them telling nearby men ‘I just want to test your knowledge.’” This doesn’t get her down, though. “While there are some difficult moments, I know that I deserve to be where I am – just like anyone else. I don’t have to defend my interests to STEM gatekeepers.” Chelsea also firmly believes that passion is important: “If you are at all passionate about computing, creating, designing, etc.– go for it! People will tell you not to pursue coding if you aren’t great with math or if you aren’t familiar with hardware. Don’t be fooled: if you want to be here, you belong! Everyone has to start somewhere, and you certainly don’t have to have been a ‘techie’ your whole life to get involved in information technology or computer science.”
Lastly, Chelsea stresses the importance of connections with other women in STEM. “I joined the campus chapter of ACM-W last semester and felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders almost immediately. It’s so rewarding to be able to discuss similar experiences with people who understand exactly what you’ve been through.” Friendships also boost confidence and help networking, she adds: “I walk tall knowing that there are others like me who relate to me and what I experience in STEM. Being able to work on projects with my friends and have my name on it, of course, is just the icing on the cake!”