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Immunologist, Linda Yang’s Letter to her Younger Self April 27, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self, women in science.
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Linda Yang is a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  While attending graduate school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she studied metabolic pathways underlying obesity.  This lead to examining how metabolic pathways define cancer and now she is currently studying tumor immunology.


How do I begin to tell you the adventures your scientific career will take you on?   Do I tell you everything or leave some stories as a surprise?  A little hint is that your love of science will take you to NYC where you pursue a doctorate in biology.  Eventually you’ll meet your husband, a fellow graduate student, while working hard in lab. You realize you don’t have to hide behind how smart you are to get a guy to like you.  Just be the wonderfully inquisitive, thoughtful, and intelligent person you are and boys will get that and like that about you.

Always remember to stay curious because this will be the foundation of your love of science.   Ask questions like how do plants grow and why is the sky blue and have fun in the pursuit of the answers.   Eventually this will lead to asking bigger questions with more difficult answers like how does cancer form and how do we cure it?

Above all, remember that liking science doesn’t make you nerdy and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.  Keep working hard and doing well in school.  There will definitely be days you won’t want to do this but stick to it.  Your perseverance will lead to a rewarding career finding cures to help sick people and along the way you’ll make wonderful friends that will last a lifetime.   Don’t be too self-conscious and remember that what makes you different will be your strength.  Be confident, adventurous, laugh easily, and don’t worry so much about what your next step should be.  Pursue the things that interest you and the rest will fall in place.


Virologist Researcher, Sarah Pagni’s letter to her 16-year old self April 27, 2012

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Sarah Pagni is a  PhD candidate at Mount Sinai School of Medicine studying how dengue virus modulates the human immune system.  She earned her Bachelors degree at Mount Holyoke College majoring in biochemstry and minoring in art history.


Dear Sarah, age 16, fall 2000,

I’m sure you aren’t going to want to hear this but I’m just going to say it, junior year of high school isn’t your best year.  Take a deep breath, you’ll do perfectly well in your classes, but everything is much harder this year than before.  Right now you’re struggling through Mr. Noll’s physics class and I know it doesn’t seem fair that you were put into the extremely hard class and other people are coasting through the easier class right now but believe me, this is a good thing.  While I never came to really love physics and the class does not get easier as the year goes on (sorry), Mr. Noll really pushed me to think critically.  To do experiments to answer my questions.   To always ask why.   And he’s right, physics makes a lot more sense with “the calculus”.  The two semesters of physics you’ll take in college are so much easier than the year in high school; it makes so much more sense.  Most importantly, this year of physics torture will be a very transformative one for you; the one thing that Mr. Noll really imparts to you is to be passionate about what you do in life.  I’ve probably only met a handful of people who truly, absolutely love what they do as much as he loved teaching high school juniors and seniors physics.  And you’ll decide that’s what you want; no, not the physics, but the passion.

By the way later this year, a guy in your English class is going to break a plate over his head (more…)

Natalie Johnson’s Letter to her young self March 31, 2012

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Natalie is a mathematician, business owner, programmer and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of READit, a consulting firm dedicated to closing the achievement gap through data.

Hey There New Baby,

Natalie in her Brownie uniform

Look into your future. Do you see what I see? You are running to kindergarten with your friends – full of excitement to join in and sing with your classmates about the weather, the state capitols and basic math facts; you are walking with your best friend to elementary school – sharing stories about what happened yesterday in physics and how your lab assignment turned out compared to your peers; you are sending a text blast to 2000 of your high school friends across the globe to share ideas and tricks to win the electronic chess game that you all started months ago; you are balancing college life, your social life and your 1 million tweets from your successful virtual business – all while deciding whether or not you will continue to live in space or move back to Earth after you proudly obtain your PhD in STEM…

Hey there, New Baby! You go girl with your new self and new, innovative mind!

Systems Engineer Rebecca Reck’s Letter to her 10-year-old self March 30, 2012

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Rebecca Reck is a Senior Systems Engineer in the Automatic Flight Control Systems and Software group at Rockwell Collins. She designs and tests equipment for airplanes in computer simulations and on real ones. Her hobbies include photography, playing flute and handbells, and taking free online computer science courses in Artificial Intelligence. This letter is cross-posted on her blog at www.rebeccaee.com.

Dear Becky at age 10,

You will go to a lot of interesting places that you cannot even imagine right now if you use your strengths and passions.

My first piece of advice is to find a way to use your strengths. You are good at math and science and best of all you like to do it. This makes them two of your strengths so put them to good use. You also like computers and learning how they work. Do not get too frustrated if you do not understand computer programming the first or even second time through, it will eventually make sense because your persistence will pay off.

Next, follow your passions, this may seem like the first piece of advice, but it is slightly different. You have a passion for solving problems and learning new things, both of these will serve you well. Engineering is all about solving problems and because the world around you will be constantly changing there are always new things to learn. Be on the lookout for new passions, you never know when a class or a professor will introduce you to something that you love to do. By the time you graduate from college you will have a third passion for controls. At this point you have never been on an airplane, however this new passion will lead to your first job teaching airplanes how to fly and land themselves. Also, do not ever lose your curiosity it will keep you asking questions which will help you learn new things.

[Your] path will have some bumps and is bound to make a few left turns along the way, but it is totally worth it.

Now find a path that will combine your strengths and your passions. I will not lie, that path will have some bumps and is bound to make a few left turns along the way, but it is totally worth it. Electrical Engineering is not the easiest major in college, but it can be rewarding. It combines math, science, computers, and problem solving in pretty awesome ways. It is everything that you love to do–keep that in mind when assignments get tough. (more…)

Immunologist, quality assurance and regulatory affairs professional Angela Lee Foreman’s Letter to her 7-year-old self March 29, 2012

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Dr. Angela Lee Foreman is currently a managing partner at Sapphire Executives and Research Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. She received her B.Sc. in Biological Sciences from UC Davis, and her Ph.D. in Immunology from Davis’ School of Medicine. She has been a strong voice for creating opportunities for and removing barriers to participation in science and engineering. Listen to an interview with her and her additional advice here.

7yrold.AngelaForemanDear 7-year-old Angela,

Perseverance is very important, no matter the disability. So you can’t hear, see or walk, but you CAN do it! Stop letting your own thoughts and emotions tell you otherwise. If you do, then your own thoughts or emotions are the actual disability. I know you’re deaf, but you’re much more capable than you think,and can contribute tons. Keep your eyes on the goal.