Tag Archives: STEM fields

Black Girls Code Receives $50k TechCrunch Include Grant

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blackgirlscodeBlack Girls Code, whose mission is to increase the number of women of color in STEM fields by empowering girls to become innovators, leaders and builders of their own futures, is the recipient of the first TechCrunch Include Grant of $50,000. By reaching out girls through workshops, summer camps and after school programs, Black Girls Code introduces computer science to girls from underrepresented communities.

TechCrunch Include had applications from over 145 organizations around the world; all of them advocate to make tech a more inclusive place. Applicants had to show how they were making an impact in their local community.  TechCrunch will be working with Black Girls Code, and 3 runners up ensure that they are better connected to the TC community.  As the Include recipient, Black Girls Code will receive tickets and exhibiting space at upcoming TechCrunch events.

2020 Girls — Introducing Girls to the Thrills of Science, Design, Engineering & Tech

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DSC_7470There is no doubt that there is a need for professionals in the STEM fields in this country, especially women. ITEC in Lansing, in partnership with MCWT, is jump-starting girls’ interest in STEM with their 2020 Girls program, launched just this year. About 100 middle school girls are participating in programming, engineering and design activities led by female instructors and assisted by women currently in the field.

I attended one of these classes, where the girls were presenting what they learned over the course of the session. Brightly decorated posters with pictures encapsulated what the girls liked best. The girls eagerly shared how they built racing LEGO robots and programmed games using Scratch. Mostly they learned how to use tools to create, design and solve problems while working together and building confidence. As Kirk Riley, Executive Director of ITEC, explained, it’s “an ordinary environment to do extraordinary things.”

While ITEC more formally surveys the girls at the start and end of the sessions to gauge impact, if you asked any of the girls, they were excited by what they learned and eager to come back. This eagerness and excitement is what really impressed me — what we really need to encourage girls to continue learning. These girls had the opportunity to experience STEM at its best and hopefully this excitement encourages them to take more STEM courses in their schooling.

With the success of the 2020 Girls pilot program, ITEC hopes to double, or even triple, the amount of schools they’re operating in, as well as extend the duration of each program.  The only real “complaint” they received from the girls was that the clubs didn’t last long enough (5-7 weeks). Ideally 2020 Girls will run the length of a semester starting in the fall.

2012-10-10 18.18.25The curriculum used for 2020 Girls was compiled from ITEC’s “Techtronics” courses (Lego Robotics, Programming and App Design).  They spent a good deal of time identifying the core content of each course and implementing it in a way that is more relevant to girls, which was implemented by the instructional team.  With 5-6 2020 Girls clubs this summer, the Science and Art of Game Design will be added (more instructional time). Graduates from the program will also have the opportunity to re-enroll during the following semester as mentors to new girls.  This will allow the instructors much more liberty to explore the curriculum, while also providing additional time for guest speakers and field trips.

ITEC will extend the 2020 Girls program this summer to a camp and hopes to renew their grant to offer sessions next school year and summer. If you’re interested in helping, volunteers to assist in the classrooms are coordinated through MCWT. For more information, please visit the 2020 Girls page on the ITEC website.

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Women in Engineering, Interview with Genemala Haobijam, Senior Development Manager at Samsung Research Institute Noida

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20131204_155033Dr. Genemala Haobijam is currently working as Senior Development Manager at Samsung Research Institue Noida. She holds a Ph.D. in Electronics and Communication Engineering, a M.Tech. degree in Microelectronics and VLSI Design and a B.E. degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering. Her career journey in Engineering has been challenging. She was born and brought up in Imphal, Manipur State, India. Imphal was a small town and there was no Engineering college at the time when she finished her secondary schooling. She has served as Assistant Professor and taught courses in Analog/Digital Circuits and System Design. Her area of research and teaching interest focuses on analysis and design of Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits and Analog & Mixed Signal Circuits. She shares her engineering career journey with us…

Sarah Worsham: What type of research are you currently working on at Samsung?

Genemala Haobijam:  Currently my research focus on smartphone system design.

Sarah: Have you seen any real-world impact from your research?

Genemala: My PhD work has made a small contribution and I have been able to publish too in referred journals. Also, I have published a book “Design and Analysis of Spiral Inductors” in 2014. I am working hard towards making more contributions and seeing more impact in circuit design.

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

Genemala: My Ph.D. project has been my favourite. I proposed a new design methodology of integrated inductors and also implemented it in a voltage controlled oscillators. I won the first prize in Design Contest of 22nd International Conference on VLSI Design. I have published several papers in peer reviewed international journals and conferences and finally a book. I did not dream of the book, so I am happy about it always. I enjoyed my academic position at Indian Institute of Technology Mandi too. I was awarded twice and given recognition for my teaching.

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

Genemala: I did not have any such particular moment. As I mentioned, I was born in a small town and in those days, every bright student knew only about Medicine, Engineering or Civil servant as a rewarding career. We had just 1 medical College in my hometown then and medicine was more preferred by everyone and hence competitive. There was no Engineering college. Hardly anyone used to have passion for research in Science or Mathematics. For me, I studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths in secondary, so I had the privilege to apply for both Medicine and Engineering. My parents wanted me to pursue Medicine. I did not get selected for Medicine, but fortunately, I was nominated by Manipur State Government for Bachelor in Engineering and hence sent to SSGMCE Shegaon Maharashtra, India. Since we did not have Engineering College, the State Government used to nominate through entrance exam and send students to selected colleges in other parts of the country.

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

Genemala: Hard work, honesty, sincerity and self confidence has been very important. Friends and families helped me stay focussed. My whole journey of my career is very special for me and it would not have been possible without my family support. Healthy competition with my friends also accelerated my career growth.

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

Genemala: I did not know anyone personally who excels in this career to whom I could ask for advice. My family, friends and the teachers in the Institute are the ones whom I turn to when I need discussion. I was very unsure of what to do after my Bachelors as we do not have any industry in my hometown. There was option to apply for a job in the Telecommunication Department of the Government, but I decided to continue with my studies. It is my family and friends that have helped me to be what I am today. On the other hand, I used to look up to profiles of renowned researchers, book authors in my area and their profiles helped me set my goals.

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

Genemala: I didn’t try to let this deter me at any time. Imphal, where I grew up is a place where women are highly respected. So, I was not aware of any difficulty that my gender faces in STEM careers. But down the journey I realised and felt how people’s outlooks differed from mine. Today I am very thankful to almighty that I was born in Imphal as families there do not decide career based on gender. The ratio of male to female in classes during Bachelors and Masters were never good. I was even the first female Ph.D. student in Electronics and Communication Engineering Department at Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati. I am thankful to the good friends I had there, because of which I did not have many difficulties. In fact, it made me bolder and stronger as I felt I had to prove myself. Women friends, although few, at every stage of my career were also paragon ladies and I think we all inspired each other to prove ourselves.

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

Genemala: A career like mine, is enjoyable and rewarding, and it’s great for girls. Today, technology has advanced so much and all information we need is available at few mouse clicks. So, one must find out the right career of choice in which one can excel and whatever one choose, just do the best you can.

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

Genemala: I think the solution to this is to motivate and make every girl, while in school, believe that STEM has nothing less to offer for girls than for boys and that women can do equally well in STEM. For every girl, it is the family members or parents who first talks about her career. There are many parents who makes the girl believe very early that women do not perform well in STEM or with a career in STEM she might not be able to perform all her responsibilities as a mother. I think we should spread awareness amongst parents too, to bring a change.

Connect with Genemala:

Thank you so much Genemala! 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 Marilee Benore, Professor of Biochemistry & Biology at University of Michigan Dearborn

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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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Nurturing Leadership in STEM Professionals

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Science World

Science World (Photo credit: danieldoan)

The education and training required for most STEM professionals can be quite high.  And many STEM professionals work in academic or research institutions which have quite different cultures and environments than corporate organizations. So it would go to reason that the leadership challenges that many STEM professionals face are different than managers in the corporate world.  There’s a good article over on Federal News Radio about things to consider when nurturing leadership in STEM professionals:

Trying to hire a truly world class physicist who may be one of a handful of people on the planet who can do what s/he does is hard enough. Providing leadership to such a scientist and helping him/her become a more effective leader is even harder. NRL found it was a challenge just to find staff who were interested in taking on leadership roles. Many of their key researchers were so focused on doing good science that being a manager was the last thing they wanted to do. Supporting STEM leaders: 5 things we need to do by Jeff Neal

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Women in Engineering, Interview with Brittany Young, Project Engineer

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brittany-1Brittany Young loved science from a young age, and is now a UMBC chemical engineering and chemistry major, as well as working as a Project Engineer and Technician at Key Technology, Inc.  She has had the pleasure of working at APL, NASA and McCormick & Co. She’s also involved in STEM mentorship programs to promote STEM education among Baltimore city youth.  She believe that it is our responsibility as women to nurture the future STEM leaders. She shares her story, as well as her hopes for the future… Continue Reading →