jump to navigation

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

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

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

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

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.


Cancer researcher and blogger Kate Sleeth’s Letter to her 12-year-old self March 28, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Dr. Kate Michelle Sleeth is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope in Los Angeles and a board member of the National Postdoctoral Association. In May 2012 she will begin a new role within the institute as the Academic Programs Administrator. 

Dear 12 year old Kate,

One of the things you are sure about is that you are going to grow up and become a veterinary surgeon. I am afraid to say that this is not going to be your destiny. As you continue through school you will struggle with advanced mathematics, and this will lead you to reconsider your future. Don’t worry; you still get to do something very cool. You will decide to continue learning biology, which really becomes your one true love. Surprisingly, you will fail a key exam which will mean you end up attending a different undergraduate university than expected. While embarrassing, you will learn that this was a blessing in disguise. Had you taken the genetics course your career path would have been narrower. It also teaches you a vital skill – the need to adapt to situations and surroundings. This will serve you well over the years, although change is scary it can bring wonderful opportunities and surprises. 

You learned to stand up for yourself in the face of adversity.

People often comment about how clever you are and how easy things come to you. You will momentarily believe what others say, but you only need to fail once to realise that their perceptions are not reality. You will study and work hard (more…)

Combining art and science: Ilana Robbins’ Letter to her Young Self March 26, 2012

Posted by Science Club for Girls in Letter to Young Self.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

Ilana Robbins received her bachelor’s degree in art and biology from the University of Connecticut, going on to study art history and design at Harvard Extension and the Museum School.

Dear Ilana,

Life seems really hard right now, being your last year of high school. Your home life is not so great, parents fighting all the time, the words “divorce” looming over everyone’s heads. You are trying to find your way as a teenager, who is really talented artistically, but feels that going into something else would be a better bet. “How am I going to make a living as an artist?” You know you love science but what about fashion, art, music etc. So many questions keep spinning around in your brain. And all this pressure from your parents, friends and teachers to do well so you can get into the right school. Meanwhile, you are trying to find out who “you” are and what your purpose in the world is to be…

Wow, that is a lot for a young person to handle. I will tell you that life gets so much better. I know it seems like that is not possible. But think about this, you will one day be able to not only be focused on science, but be drawing, painting and just being creative almost every day. And that your love of art will propel you down a path you never knew existed. All the pressure to be at the right school will have no bearing on where you go. You’ll end up at the school that was not your first choice but will give you the opportunities you never knew existed and you will make life long friends. Just remember, do what you love, what gets you excited, what makes you feel good every day!

And don’t worry so much about how you look – your crazy curly hair and big glasses. Eventually there will be so many numerous options for hair products you won’t know which one to choose. And people will comment often on how they wish they had lovely curls like you. And luckily your glasses will get smaller and smaller and you will even get to use contacts. You will become so much more comfortable in your own skin and body. Just make sure you take the time to take care of it. And you will own it (flaws and all)!

Your parents will divorce, but it will be the best thing possible for everyone because eventually your dad will remarry and so will your mom and to much better “fits” for them. It will all work itself out. Sure there will be drama some days, but overall, life is good.

You will become super close to your sister (even though now you are like total opposites) and mom. They will be your rocks through thick and thin. You will discover that some friends you had then will no longer be in your life, but it is for the best.

Meanwhile those who were meant to continue down your path with you will stick around and become life long friends. You will be a part of many friends’ weddings and births of their children. Including your own sister who will have two beautiful boys, your nephews, whom you will get to see grow up and explore life. Travel will be your greatest pleasure (along with listening to music), you will get to travel all over the world, exploring new places, cultures and art. You will get to travel with your mom, sister and lots of friends to all sorts of exotic locations. You’ll get to walk on glaciers, swim with Sting Rays, see “David” and eat lots of gelato. And through all of it you’ll keep travel journals and take tons of photos to remind you that life is full of possibilities.

Along the way you will meet lots of interesting people who influence your life. You will have ups and downs and bear some personal losses – like grandparents, cousins and close friends. But know to love is better than to never have loved at all.

Which is a good lesson. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there to find love. It can be a crazy ride, but in the end it is worth it. One day you’ll meet this amazing man who really “gets” you. He’ll be cute, smart and make you laugh. And you’ll have great adventures together – traveling, going to concerts and looking at art.

And you will learn to trust yourself and your own decisions. It’ll be hard sometimes to know what the right decision will be, but what your gut tells you will help guide you. Sometimes it will cause you to feel lots of emotions that you may want to ignore, but don’t. Don’t ignore them. Trust in those feelings. Trust that doing the right thing will take you places, trust that being a good person and having a huge heart (that you sometimes wear on your sleeve), will be worthwhile.

You will have lots of choices and opportunities to learn, grow and change – take advantage of them. If you get the opportunity to do something new, even if it may seem scary, try it. You may find you will love it.

Just remember to hang in there. Don’t stress out and make sure to look in that mirror and give yourself a big hug, cause you deserve it!

Much Love,



Ilana Robbins has over 10 years experience in biotech/pharma and healthcare working at such companies as Vertex, Novartis, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and New England Medical Center. Her areas of focus include graphic design, web design and development, digital and social media strategies and team and relationship building. In her free time she enjoys traveling (her next trip is to Japan), going to see live bands, and attending art shows.

What’s equity in politics got to do with parity in science and engineering? March 22, 2012

Posted by Connie Chow in Executive Director Musings, STEM pipeline efforts, women in science.
Tags: ,
add a comment

A version of this post appeared first on Aspire Wire, Wheelock College’s blog on Advancing Social and Educational Policy, Practice, and Research

Worldwide, merit alone has not led to gender equity in appointments in public office, business and certainly not tenure in science and engineering. Disappointingly, a recent report suggests that it will take another 40 years before 50% of new academic hires in STEM in the United States will be female. Supply and attrition are significant contributors. The degree to which personal choice, institutional practice, and societal norms are involved can be debated.

“Quota” is often a dirty word in the United States. And that puts us behind many countries, such as Rwanda, Namibia and Bangladesh – countries that have used this temporary measure to increase the number of women officials at the highest levels of government. While India still has fewer than 10% women in parliament (because of continuous opposition to legislation to reserve seats for women by the lower house), Dr. Pam Rajput of Punjab University has been instrumental in putting over a million women in local office, which does have a 33% quota, by methodically and doggedly training urban and rural women, uneducated and with higher degrees, in the last 30 years. This has resulted in significant changes in policies around education and public health, improving not only the lives of girls and women, but entire communities.

While a quota system (hopefully voluntarily implemented by institutions) may accelerate change for women and girls in STEM, it will not be enough.

Current efforts to broaden participation in STEM for girls and women and those from underrepresented groups at all levels, from outreach programs for K-12, research opportunities and scholarships for university students, mentoring programs for graduate students and initiatives like ADVANCE, are essential but not sufficiently far-reaching. A practical tool increasingly used by government, businesses and academia in the EU and other countries is called a gender audit, or gender sensitive budgeting.

Instead of just having a numerical target for equity, this tool encourages thoughtful review and discussion of recruitment and hiring practices, workplace or program policies, and other elements that can hinder or promote equity. Moreover, gender auditing asks for the collection of gender-disaggregated data (as well as race, class or other factors as are relevant), that helps set baseline data, identify gaps, monitor progress and test effectiveness of program changes. Recommendations are not just hortatory. Review and reallocation of the budget ensures that proper resources are provided to go the extra mile in implementing necessary policies and slowly reverse any discriminatory practices, intended or otherwise. Importantly, it is an educational tool that opens the eyes of individuals, departmental units and institutions so that women and underrepresented groups don’t carry the full burden of advocating for themselves.

And this is why participation of gender-sensitive women and men at all levels of decision making becomes important if we are to transform the ivory tower, especially for STEM. When a more diverse group of people are committed AND have the ability to direct resources to creating girl- and women-friendly policies in our society, which are at the end family-, human- and earth-friendly policies, then more people in turn can make decisions about who can do science, what engineering research is legitimate, what are appropriate applications of science, technology and engineering. Then and only then can we escape the shackles of business as usual and incremental change. Let’s not let the wait be any longer.