Archive | Science Paragons


Women in STEM Podcast Episode 3 – Sarina Peterson and Brianna Rapini, co-creators of the YouTube channel, The Amoeba Sisters


amoebasisters_400x400Interview with Sarina Peterson and Briana Rapini, co-creators of the YouTube channel, The Amoeba Sisters.

Hosted by Sarah Worsham.

Music is Light Emotions by MIGmusic.

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Women In STEM Podcast Episode 1 – Katie McGill, Physics PhD Candidate & Creator of The Physics Factor


Katie_239x239Interview with Katie McGill, Physics PhD Candidate at Cornell University and Creator of the YouTube Channel, The Physics Factor.

Hosted by Sarah Worsham.

Music is Light Emotions by MIGmusic.

Listen to Women In STEM podcast Episode 1:

Please Subscribe to & Review our Podcast

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Other Women In STEM podcast episodes:

Women in Science, Interview with Marilee Benore, Professor of Biochemistry & Biology at University of Michigan Dearborn


marileebenoreMarilee Benore is a Professor of Biochemistry & Biology at the University of Michigan Dearborn where she teaches and studies vitamins.  She has won awards for her mentoring and will be co-chair of the UMICH Academic Women’s Caucus Sarah Goddard Power Award Committee. Marilee has always loved finding things, watching things and experimenting with household items to discover something (that she thought was) brand new.  She enjoys combining science and creative thinking to solve problems.  Marilee also enjoys the science of her hobbies, such as making glass beads.  She shares her experiences and insights with us…

Sarah Worsham: Please tell us about what you do and what type of research you’re doing.

Marilee Benore: I am a college Professor, so I teach college students, and I also do research, and some of my students help me in the lab. I study vitamin transport. Vitamins are nutrients that come from food, and after you eat them, they have to get to the right places in the body to be used. We study one particular vitamin, riboflavin, and the protein that carries it around, called, not surprisingly, riboflavin binding protein. Riboflavin is bright yellow. It even glows under ultraviolet light! We study chickens and eggs as our model, as we can see how a chick eats nutrients, and transports some of them to the egg. Our work helps us to understand how those tiny molecule get to the right place in can be used by cells.

I have a flock of hens that I keep at Michigan State, because the University of Michigan doesn’t have an agricultural or animal studies program. The mutant flock cannot transport riboflavin to the eggs, so it is a natural model and we can use the eggs for studies. We can learn a lot about how molecules get to the right place in your body.

Sarah: What’s your day-to-day like?

Marilee: Every day is different! My schedule varies from day to day, so there is a lot of flexibility on some days, and none on others, like when I have to be in the classroom.  I teach, I work in the lab, I grade, I write papers, I review text books, I mentor and advise students, and I go to meetings. A lot of students work in my lab, so it is never a dull moment because they work hard, but they also like to have fun and have become good friends.

Sarah: What is the highlight of your day?

Marilee: I love working in the lab. I enjoy doing experiments. As silly as it sounds, I still like to make reagents, and pour solutions, all knowing I might be the first person to discover something no one else knows yet!

Sarah: What’s the most difficult part of your job?

Marilee: I really do not enjoy grading. I like teaching and watching students learn, and sometime they have not learned as much as you thought…so that makes grading rather sad. I worry about how to help my students learn. But it can also be a bit boring especially in a big class, where you might grade the same question for 120 or more students.

Sarah: In your entire career, what’s been your favorite job or project?

Marilee: I think right now is my favorite project. I am working with two other female professors and a whole bunch of students and we are all collaborating on projects. Sometimes the students will send me results, and sometimes they send me the pics of them doing silly things in lab, like practicing moonwalking. The students are so passionate, and  enjoy working together and sharing their experimental results!

Sarah: Was there a particular event or moment when you decided to pursue a career in STEM?

Marilee: I was in grade school when I realized how much I liked doing experiments. I loved nature, and I liked trying to mix things up in the house to see what happens. I am a good chemist, but I am not a good cook. I used to make things to put on my face that I invented as skin creams, and I liked to play with a chemistry set.

Sarah: What has been most important in terms of getting where you are today?

Marilee: Knowing that I wanted to do something fun and exciting. Pushing myself to try new experiences. Knowing that I might always be the best, but that I can make a contribution. I think what I do is important and makes a difference to others, and that makes me happy and feel like a part of a global effort.

Sarah: Did you have any mentors or role models growing up that led you to this career?  How did they influence you?

Marilee: Several. I had lots of nuns, and many taught me science and math. So I always knew women could be scientists. I was in scouts, and thought the women who were our troop leaders were amazing. So I always knew women could be smart leaders, and be in charge and get things done, and handle any problems and be creative. I wanted a career, because I knew I wanted to be able to support myself. When I grew up we didn’t have a lot of extra money, and so I hoped to be able to earn enough to buy the things I needed.

Sarah: What was your favorite game or toy growing up?

Marilee: I loved  riding my bike all over town. It made me feel free and adventurous.

Sarah: Are there any skills or courses that have been more useful than you initially expected?

Marilee: Math is important. Learning to use your hands is important, so things like playing music, sewing, drawing.. it all comes in very handy.

Sarah: Did you have to overcome any obstacles to get where you are?

Marilee: It took me a little while longer to get to my level (full professor as we call it) because I was a single mom. So I was busier at home and had other duties, which make working in the lab a bit more difficult. But this job gave me the flexibility to do it and take care of my kids, do my teaching and research, but also be the soccer coach.

Sarah: Have you ever had any difficulties in your career due to your gender?  How did you handle them?

Marilee: Oh sure. I worked in a chemical plant and had some harassment issues at work, and even in my college days I was turned down for a lab job just because I was a woman. And that is why I am so active in issues to support women in science, and engineering and math. I have learned to be more proactive for myself.

Sarah: What advice do you have to anyone interested in a similar career?

Marilee: Make it fun. Try new things, Ask questions, Ask for advice and help when you need it. Expect to make mistakes. Talk to your coworkers and share. Be helpful not competitive.

Sarah: In your opinion, how can we get more girls interested in STEM careers?

Marilee: Role models. More advice. Helping people understand how stereotyping and discrimination hurt everyone. Changing our ridiculous work hour expectations, so thing are better for men and women.  Help girls and young women learn that they can change the world with what they do in STEM.

Sarah: What types of questions and concerns are raised by women and girls you have mentored regarding STEM careers?

Marilee: Many of the questions are about careers and how to time things like school, families, jobs, and hobbies. How they can get balance between school and work. Sometimes they just need a listening ear and a different way to look at a situation, so they can figure out how to handle a challenge at work.

Thank you so much Marilee!  We hope you found her story helpful, interesting and inspiring.  If you would like to share your own story, please submit your information and we’ll be in contact soon!

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Women in Science, Interview with Kimberly Kowal Arcand, Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory & Author


KimArcandKim Arcand is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, studying the perception and comprehension of science images by people of various degrees of expertise.  She’s also co-authored a non-fiction book, “Your Ticket to the Universe: A Guide to Exploring the Cosmos” for Smithsonian Books which is aimed at attracting more novice science readers, particularly women. Her background is eclectic — jumping from biology (parasitology) as an undergrad, to computer science, to research and dissemination of astrophysics communications.  We’re happy to have her share her story with us.

Sarah Worsham: Tell us about your job at NASA.

Kim Arcand: I’m the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a satellite that looks at super hot regions of the Universe from exploding stars to colliding galaxies.  My job is essentially telling stories about science, and those stories can take shape as a data image of a cluster of galaxies, a 3-D representation of an exploded star, an interactive piece about physics across scales, or just a tweet about a planet. I collaborate with scientists, researchers, writers, educators, graphic artists and many others to not only create stories about science but also to study how we understand science and the images that come out of it.  My work is often computer based, and technology has been an important component of my career, but I also travel occasionally, give talks, and even write books.

Sarah: What’s been your favorite project or job of your career so far?

Kim: It’s so hard to pick just one! But since I must, I would say the “From Earth to the Universe” program, nicknamed “FETTU” that I created and co-led with Megan Watzke. FETTU was a public science exhibition for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), in partnership with the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO. The project lead to over 1,000 astronomy exhibit sites in unusual public places – from prisons to cafes, from art galleries to airports – in over 70 countries, with materials translated into 40 languages. I am very passionate about projects and policies that can benefit international audiences with a particular focus on underserved groups such as women in science and the visually impaired, and FETTU was able to reach many people in these groups.

Sarah: Was there a particular event or moment when you decided to pursue a career in STEM?

Kim: I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work in science. Growing up, each year I seemed to pick a different branch – astronomy or medicine? zoology or environmental science? parasitology or computer science? I’ve found that I like to delve into one area and then meander on to something related and learn about how the topics might connect. This learning style has benefited me in that I have been able to grow tremendously in my job, letting new skills and ideas guide the projects and goals in different directions.

Sarah: You’ve had an interesting journey to your current job — tell us what lead you to change jobs and how this non-traditional pathway has impacted you.

Kim: It stems perhaps from being interested in many things. I started out as an undergraduate in biology, then decided to focus on medicine, and then veered into parasitology and public health. It was difficult for me to pick a single area that I wanted to learn about consistently and consecutively. Eventually after graduating, I made my way into computer science and information technology, teaching Computer Science 101, and taking classes in IT, multimedia, and programming as part of a masters certification.

I was working at the time for the Chandra X-ray Center but yet I still hadn’t figure out what I wanted to be “when I grew up.” I knew however, that I had landed an amazing position with a group of people that encouraged creativity, growth and taking risks. So I continued happily on my journey under the umbrella of astronomy and eventually found myself doing such diverse things as data visualization, image and meaning research, and communications and public engagement implementation and research. I am addicted to learning, so I went back to school again, this time to work on a degree in public humanities. This last program helped me expand from being a specialist to more of a generalist, improving my critical thinking skills, collaborative project planning and provided a new lens to view not only my work and research but also broader opportunities.

Sarah: Did you have any mentors or role models growing up that led you to this career?  How did they influence you?

Kim: I had a favorite science teacher in high school who let us have a lot of fun in his classroom. Even if we were getting boisterous or silly as long as we were genuinely curious about something, he’d let us try it out. We hoisted him up to the ceiling for one unit on pulleys…and then let him dangle there long enough to snap some photos. (We had to do this with a film camera that someone had to go find — this was way before the era of the iPhone!) He was a great sport about it and seemed to enjoy letting us “play” in science even though you would never have guessed that from his slightly gruff personality.

I have also had a mentor in my job at Chandra who has played an important role in my career. As my current group leader, she has enabled me to grow exponentially by helping to provide me with a supportive work environment, even while I took classes, had children and wrote a book.

Sarah: How did you get involved in writing a book?

Kim: My FETTU co-creator, Megan, and I were busy in 2009 trying to promote the IYA2009 project and get exhibits set up across the world. One article we wrote was for Sky and Telescope’s Beautiful Universe annual publication. A literary agent, Elizabeth Evans of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency saw the piece and contacted us to talk about a book. I was completely surprised and thrilled. I had always wanted to write a book and this was such a great opportunity to actually do it.

Beginning with our home planet, the book, Your Ticket to the Universe, aims to take the reader on an entertaining and understandable trip to the most interesting stops known in the cosmos. There are objects nearby within our Solar System (our backyard in space, so to speak) as well as sources that are found throughout our Milky Way galaxy and well beyond. Accompanied by photographs that bring the reading experience to life, Your Ticket to the Universe is designed to make space exploration accessible.

Sarah: How has your book impacted novice science readers, especially girls?

Kim: I’ve been very surprised to see such a wide age range for the book, much wider than I expected. I’ve heard from grandparents reading it at night to their young (4 or 5 year old) grandchildren. I’ve heard from friends who had 3rd and 4th grade children reading it on their own. And I even learned that an astronomy class at a university is using it as a reference.

A major part of my experience has been about getting out into the community and talking about space with people of all sorts of backgrounds, whether kids at a library or amateur astronomers at a meeting. Much of my day job has been behind the scenes, so to speak. Writing the book has let me have more direct communication with people and that has been both fun and rewarding. I think it’s important for children of all genders to see a woman, a “typical mom,” interacting with science and doing something interesting.

Two of my proudest moments this year were actually when my children came home with drawings from school. One was from my daughter (who’s now 8; left), and the other was from my son (now 10; right).


Sarah: What was your favorite game or toy growing up?  Why?

Kim: Over a few Christmases, my parents gave me a microscope, a stellarium and a chemistry set, and they were all incredibly special to me. I felt empowered that my parents would trust me with such “grown up” toys. And then, I was completely fascinated by what I could do and learn with each of them. Of course, I also absolutely loved a dollhouse they had built for me, so it wasn’t all science all the time!

Sarah: Have you ever had any difficulties in your career due to your gender?  How did you handle them?

Kim: I am sure being female has had an impact on my career, but it’s hard to think of specific instances where I had a challenge due to my gender to overcome. One general issue, however, was that as an undergraduate I had neither female science professors nor any other women mentors in science around me. When I wavered about pursuing a graduate degree in science, I didn’t have an experienced female perspective to help out.

I know that many girls and women face serious hurdles to getting involved in science and that’s why I’ve dedicated my career to helping where I can.

Sarah: What advice do you have to anyone interested in a similar career?

Kim: The best advice I can give anyone about any career is to do what you love and be honest about what gets you excited. Try new things, take risks and give it your best. Sometimes it’s not obvious how to make your passion financially rewarding enough early on, but don’t let that discourage you. I’ve always believed if you do what you love, the rest will follow.

Sarah: In your opinion, how can we get more girls interested in STEM careers?

Kim: It’s very important to infuse science into our popular culture. What I mean by that is that we need stop thinking of science as a separate entity from our everyday lives. Many people – especially girls – think of science as something that only certain people can and should do. What I think is critical is that we realize that science is all around us and impacts us throughout our daily lives. It’s also knowledge that can be gained just like many other fields – science is not just for geniuses. If more people realized that, then I think that at least one barrier that girls face would be lowered.

Connect with Kim:

Thank you very much, Kim!  We hope you found her story helpful, interesting and inspiring.  If you would like to share your own story, please submit your information and we’ll be in contact soon!

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Women in Science, Interview with Katie McGill, Physics PhD Candidate and Creator of the YouTube Channel, The Physics Factor


Katie_239x239As cool as physics is, just like any graduate degree, it’s still quite a bit of work to get.  Add in creating YouTube videos about the field you love, and what Katie McGill does is pretty amazing.  Today she shares her story with us, not only about being a physics PhD candidate, but also about creating videos for her YouTube Channel, The Physics Factor. Continue Reading →

Women in Science, Interview with Renee Hlozek, Princeton University Cosmologist & TED Fellow


Renee Hlozek. Photo: Ryan LashRenee Hlozek is a South African female cosmologist and TED Fellow living and working at Princeton University.  She is passionate about getting young women and girls interested in science and being creative.  She feels that we need to change the way we see women and girls and their ability to do science, to dream and to fail — she thinks that by showing how she does science, including the method, the trials and the joys, she can make her field more accessible.  A lot of her time is spent writing computer code, which is pretty cool with me. She shares more of her story with us…. Continue Reading →

Women in Science: Interview with Laura Douglass, President & CEO, Next Generation Clinical Research


Laura L. DouglassLaura Douglass started out as an ICU/surgical nurse and moved into drug research, becoming a Clinical Director of a major life science company.  She eventually went on to found and lead 2 banks dedicated to funding science research and is on numerous boards, as well as volunteering on a community medical team. She shares how she juggles work, home, volunteering and staying current, and advice for anyone who would like lead a life science or high tech company. Continue Reading →

20 Fascinating Lady Scientists to Follow on Twitter #FF


scienceladySCIENCE!!! Ok, seriously — science is awesome and so are these lady scientists.  Follow them to see what they’re doing day-to-day and wow! it’s pretty cool.  You can follow us @LadyParagons, and see all our Twitter lists too. SCIENCE!!!

  1. Karen L. Nyberg (@AstroKarenN) — NASA Astronaut. Recent resident of the International Space Station. Now happy at home.
  2. Hadiza Mohammed (@w_rock_science) — Founder of Women Rock Science. Black Girl In STEM. Smashing the Patriarchy. Hilary Clinton Fanclub. Empowerment. Real Talk
  3. The Grumpy Chemist (@Chemistry_Kat) — Mostly grumpy. Tweets about life with #realtimechem and cats. Has no idea what’s going on.
  4. Winter-Esther Okoth (@WinterOkoth) — Founder @PMentorship | Biomed Researcher Mayo Clinic | HEA Associate |Entrepreneurial Leader | Women in STEM Empowermnt EndMalaria, Health,Youth, Peace Advocate
  5. Laura Trouille (@WindyCityAstro) — ex-Roller Derbier turned full contact astronomer (split between galaxy research and K12 computational STEM education research) at NU & The Adler Planetarium.
  6. Dr Heather Williams (@alrightPET) — Senior Medical Physicist @CMFTNHS Nuclear Medicine, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) specialist; STEM ambassador; Mum; @Science_Grrl Director.
  7. Anne Glover (@EU_ScienceChief) — I am Chief Scientific Adviser to José Manuel Barroso, President of @EU_Commission. I am going to tweet about fascinating science going on in Europe
  8. Julianne Dalcanton (@dalcantonJD) — Astrophysicist at the University of Washington. Principal Investigator of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT).
  9. Sam Cristoforetti (@AstroSamantha) — Samantha Cristoforetti. ESA astronaut. Italian Air Force officer. Looking forward to riding a Soyuz rocket to ISS in Nov. 2014 as part of Exp. 42/43. #Futura
  10. Indra Petersons (@IndraPetersons) — #CNN #CBM #Meteorologist. #Travel Junkie. Tomboy at heart. True #weather #nerd: B.S. Atmospheric Physics. Minors: #Math, #Physics & #Business
  11. Dr Suze Kundu (@FunSizeSuze) — Doctor of Materials Science. Nano-chemist literally and professionally. Artificial photosynthesiser. Science communicator. Love dancing, live music, Muse, shoes
  12. Keri Bean (@PlanetaryKeri) — #TAMU c/o ’10 & ’13 in meteorology. Working @NASAJPL as @NASA_Dawn science planner! Former meteorologist on @MarsCuriosity and @MarsPhoenix. Tweets are my own.
  13. Prof Alice Roberts (@DrAliceRoberts) — Professor of Public Engagement in Science at University of Birmingham; Physical anthropologist, author, and science presenter
  14. Suzanne Pilaar Birch (@suzie_birch) — Archaeologist & postdoc @ Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World, Brown University. Tweets: archaeology, OA, higher ed, women in science.
  15. Lisa Randall (@lirarandall) — Physicist, Author of Warped Passages, Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Higgs Discovery
  16. Athene Donald (@AtheneDonald) — Physics Professor Cambridge, researching interface with biology; University gender equality champion; Master-elect @ChurchillCol;
  17. Lucie Green (@Dr_Lucie) — Royal Society University Research Fellow staring at the Sun and beyond. Based at UCL
  18. Jeanne Garbarino (@JeanneGarb) — Scientist turned Director of Science Outreach at @RockefellerUniv. I break vegetarian for pulled pork. Long live the Oxford comma.
  19. Dorothy Bishop (@deevybee) — Professor of developmental neuropsychology. Blog on
  20. Jacquelyn Gill (@JacquelynGill) — Assistant Professor at the University of Maine. Conservation paleoecologist using the natural experiments of the past to understand a warming world.

Know of a lady scientist we should be following? Please share in the comments!