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Letters to My Young Self 2010 April 5, 2010

Posted by A weekend of culture, style, and summer in General Post.
Debra Auguste is Assistant Professor of bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Her lab tries to understand how the development of cells into structures can be affected by a variety of chemical, mechanical, and other environmental signals. “It’s true what they say about it not being the destination, but the journey that is important. Plus, it will save you from going to court for that speeding ticket.”
Christiane Bode is a medicinal chemist at Amgen in Cambridge, MA. During her time at Amgen, she has worked primarily in drug development for oncology projects. “You have the power and the will to make the right decisions, and to shape your life in the general direction you would like.”
Debbie Chachra is Assistant Professor of Materials Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA. Her research interests include both biological materials (she is currently investigating a type of plastic made by bees) and engineering education. “There’s a distinctive pleasure to holding something that you’ve made, and you’ll get a tremendous confidence boost from it – it’s the difference between, “I’m not sure,” and “Of course I can.”
Melanie Cooke is a senior associate scientist at Amgen in Cambridge, MA. She has worked in the small molecule preformulation group for 5 years.  She has helped move numerous projects through preclinical development. “Your work will take you places that you have never dreamed of ever being.”
Anna Dietrich is Chief Operating Officer at Terrafugia, a company developing a flying car – or “roadable aircraft,” as Terrafugia calls its “Transition” vehicle. “Let your dreams be extravagant and wonderful, but keep them flexible.”
Jacinthe Gingras is a scientist for Amgen Inc. Her current research focuses on drug design and discovery for debilitating conditions such as pain and neurodegenerative disease. It won’t always be easy to be a woman in science; sadly stereotypes don’t fade away very fast. I will let you in on a secret: scientists are not all men, wearing lab coats, sporting a funky hairdo and a pocket protector! There is plenty of space for both genders and all styles!”
Lynda Jordan is a researcher in science and religion, a community activist and an ordained minister. She is the third of fewer than ten women of African descent that has earned the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Chemistry, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was also the first person to receive a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and the Master of Public Health (MPH) from Harvard University at the same time. “Your innate desire to want to help others life better, will allow you to search for answers with a keen eye. Your ability to contribute to science can be unbounded, because you do not confine yourself by thinking in a box, and you are always helping others.”
Laura Major is leading the Human-System Collaboration Group at C.S. Draper Laboratory. She is leading the design of the next generation navigation and decision support system for Air Force Special Operations Forces and the design and evaluation of future cockpit concepts for lunar landing. “If you just keep taking each step you are presented with, you will go farther than you can imagine right now.”
Ishara Mills-Henry is the Program Director of Science of the Eye. She is a
postdoctoral fellow at TERC researching inquiry-based initiatives in science
education. She has led workshops for high school science teachers
on the evolution of the vertebrate eye and the structures of proteins involved
in vision.
“I think the fact that you are sometimes indecisive will actually help you in the future.  Having an open mind will open up avenues that you could never imagine.”
Alissa Myrick is a Yerby Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health studying tuberculosis. Her research has taken her over much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Alissa left bench science to pursue her interests in science education and increasing diversity in the sciences. “Science is not going to be compartmentalized when you grow up, even though you will mostly be trained that way.  You are already a really interdisciplinary person – sometimes you may feel a little unfocused, but that ability to weave multiple disciplines into a single purpose will benefit you as you try to establish yourself scientifically in the future.”
Lucie N’ Guessan is an environmental engineer at ExxonMobil. After two postdoctoral studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., she transitioned into a scientist position before making a move to Houston, Texas, to work for ExxonMobil. “You do not have to decide today what you would like to do for the rest of your life.”
Mondira Deb Pant is Lead Technologist at Intel’s Microprocessor Design Center. She has worked her way up to becoming the lead technologist for on-chip power delivery and is leading the way toward developing more efficient chips. “Know that you have infinite possibilities; know you are smart and intelligent; that when you believe in yourself you infuse confidence in others too.”
Jo Solet is a Clinical Instructor in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Cambridge Health Alliance. She has focused on adaptation to injury, illness, and disability. “Curiosity is what makes us explore places and ideas. Curiosity makes us want to understand how everything works.”




1. aly in va - March 18, 2011

I just think this series is great and wish as a young person I had the guidance and words of wisdom of such great diverse women. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure to share this with my daughters in the future.

Connie Chow - March 29, 2011

Thanks, Aly!

Please do share with all the young women you know! And we’d love to hear what your daughters’ responses are!

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