Lauren Mehanna was a chemical engineering major at the University of Kentucky. She is originally from Lexington, KY. She has completed research with various UK engineering professors during 2015 and 2016 and an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Georgia. All of her projects have involved nanoparticle characterization and applications to cancer detection methods. Her REU specifically had her use iron oxide nanoparticles as a cancer detection method for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an invasive brain cancer. She has also interned at Piramal Pharma Solutions, working in an Analytical Research and Development Laboratory.
Lauren chose STEM as a profession because she enjoyed math and science and grew passionate about laboratory work and experimentation. She reveled in the challenge of STEM and tackled her obstacles head on. "The end result of such projects, research experiments, and reports is extremely rewarding. The process itself can be daunting, but the final products I have created throughout my engineering career makes me so proud of what I've accomplished. No other subject has ever done that for me." To Lauren, being a woman in STEM means she won't let anyone stand in the way of her achieving her dreams: "I am a woman who is empowered, driven, and won't say no in the face of failure."
In regards to gender influencing her work, Lauren has not experienced much differential in experience in her coursework. "The lack of gender disparity in chemical engineering has made our work incredibly successful. With this difference eliminated, the women in my classes are confident enough to speak their minds and are empowered to challenge the ideas of others." In regards to diversity in STEM fields, Lauren highlights the importance of including women: "most of the greatest thinkers and innovators in recent years have been women. I don't necessarily think women outthink men, but they definitely bring new perspectives that are vital for creativity and success. Women diversify meetings and teams, which ultimately leads to better collaboration".
When responding to how the imposter syndrome in STEM has affected her, Lauren responds: "I experience the imposter syndrome on multiple occasions, but I don’t necessarily view it as a negative attribute. I would find it strange that someone would never experience the imposter syndrome at some point in their careers; however, I do think this syndrome is a way for personal growth and shouldn’t be experienced long-term. A little bit of self-doubt and lack of recognition is healthy and encourages you to build your confidence when in new situations and starting new careers. I think the more your confidence grows this imposter syndrome diminishes, because you realize that you are strong and capable of accomplishing the tasks set in front of you, not just faking your way through it."
Her advice to young women who want to pursue STEM careers is this:
I think if a STEM career is your passion then you should go for it full force! Now I think it is important to remember that your journey will not always be easy, and there will be many times when you question your career goals and want to give up settling for an easier path. Don’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. The next few years may be difficult, but the lifetime career afterwards will be worth the work! You can always find a great support system to get you through it, and honestly, I have never found better friends than through my undergraduate years. You will find others who are also passionate and together you can do anything you imagine".
Campus Representative: Hannah Thompson