Introduction to the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative's Blog!
Are you looking to meet fellow supportive women in STEM fields within the Chicago area? If so, you are in the right place. Welcome to the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative! Here you will find information about our mission, our future goals, and ongoing events.
But who are “we”? “We” is me and you, all the women (and men) that share the goal of equal opportunity in our society, and especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (if you wondered what STEM stands for). Although “we” share the same values, “we” are all very different, “we” are the collective of all our members. The purpose of this blog is to highlight and celebrate the amazing people who make up the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative by sharing their stories and achievements.
We hope our stories will serve as a motivation for women and girls considering STEM fields as a career, but also as a reminder to the women out there, that you are not alone. We hope to emphasize the importance of following one’s dreams no matter the gender barrier. As a collective group we can help pave the road for generations of women to come so that one day there will be equal representation of men and women in STEM.
In February we hosted Nicole Woitowich (Director of Science Outreach and Education, Women’s Health Research Institute, Northwestern University) and Kristin Samuelson (Media Relations Specialist/Video Producer and Health Sciences Writer, Northwestern University) for a science communication and media workshop. Here, I would like to briefly summarize and share some of the key concepts and most useful tips they shared with us:
Have your elevator pitch ready and have several versions for different audiences. Briefly,an elevator pitch is a short personal introduction and presentation of your ideas or work.
Using social media like Twitter or LinkedIn is a great way to connect with media and other scientists in and/or outside your expertise.
Timing is key to promote your work or success: Contact the media or Media relations department when your paper just got accepted or even before to have enough time to prepare the message.
Another opportunity for your media promotion is when your expertise relates to topics currently making headlines.
Contact with media is fast, respond ASAP when they contact you. You can always say “I am busy now, I will call you back in 10 minutes.” and thus gain time to think what is your message and still let them know “I am interested”.
Before you interview: Prepare bullet points and practice to say it out loud. It gives you confidence and helps you remember your statements.
You can say polite “No” if you do not want to respond. “I am sorry, I do not know enough to speak about it.” it is much better than incorrect information.
Remember, reporters are reporters not your friends and everything you say is on the record and they can use it. You control your message by providing the information.
Your message should be interesting and understandable to the general public. Use metaphors, examples, and simplifications and avoid jargon or long and complicated sentences.
You have to communicate your message differently through different media. For video,your story must be visually interesting. In radio, you have to provide quick facts or surprising numbers and findings. The print is usually more complex however, still visual.
For video interviews use translucent powder and hairspray, avoid wearing patterns or white and black colors, heavy necklaces or scarfs. Avoid glasses if possible. Wearing bright colors (purple!) and business casual is always a good choice.
Don ́t be sad when your 30 min interview ends in a 15 second sound bind. It is absolutely normal.
Specifically for Northwestern University:
If you have any question contact the Media Relations Staff at Northwestern. They are here to help you, polish your statement or train you to give the best interview.
If you want to learn more, visit the Northwestern Media training web page. There you can find Media training and communication manuals full of practical tips and recommendations.
Do you know that Northwestern University has the Faculty Experts HUB? If you are an expert in specific fields, you should be listed there.
I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Cellular and Molecular Biology department at Northwestern. I am the first woman in my family to receive a Bachelor’s Degree (Spanish) and a PhD (Immunology). I work in Tom Hope’s lab, where we focus on HIV transmission. My research examines mother-to-child HIV transmission through breastfeeding and HIV pre-clinical vaccine development. I was interested in pursuing science to help others. I was recently added to the Trainee Advisory Board for the Center for Reproductive Sciences at Northwestern University. My hope is to use my scientific background and skills from my PhD and postdoctoral training into the community and nonprofit sector through HIV outreach and advocacy.
I am Alison Hernandez, PhD, RN-BC. I am a bi-lingual and bi-cultural (Mexica- American) medical surgical board certified registered nurse. I have my PhD in nursing from the University of Illinois at Chicago where I was part of the Robert Wood Johnson – Future of Nursing Scholar; a program that helps propel nurses through their doctoral degree. I am trained as a bio-behavioral health researcher and have a broad interest in older adult health and longevity. Currently, I am a Disability Policy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Northwestern University’s Center for Education in Health Sciences. I chose the Disability Policy Research Fellowship because I want to learn how to effectively influence policy trough my research. My long-term research interests are to explore the use of integrative health approaches (e.g. exercise, nutrition, positive psychology) to foster health promotion and disease prevention in older adults. Specifically, I am interesting in understanding how the prescription of exercise, nutrition and interventions that focus on psychological well-being can help ameliorate age related physical (metabolic, cardiovascular, cognitive) and mental changes (anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and quality of life). My current research is on examining how different types of physical activity can increase subjective well-being (i.e. happiness, joy, satisfaction) in older adults. Improved subjective well-being is linked to longevity, and improved quality of life and is associated with improved health outcomes. Recently, I received the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) DREAM travel award (supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences) to attend the American College of Sports Medicine annual research meeting and present my research. FASEB is committed to support diversity in research and education in the biological sciences. Nurses go beyond the bedside, and lead research efforts that improve outcomes. My interest in STEM is rooted in my clinical career as a nurse, and desire to promote evidence based interventions to help older adults live long quality lives.
My name is Colleen Furey and I am a fourth year graduate student in the Driskill Graduate Program at Northwestern, working towards a Ph.D. in Life Sciences. I work in a virology lab within the Microbiology-Immunology department and my project broadly focuses on understanding the role of different proteins that regulate the microtubule network during herpes simplex virus type I infection in human cells. In the coming month I will be submitting a paper on my work and I look forward to closing this chapter of my project, and starting to explore a new question! Of my family I am the first to choose a career in science and I feel so lucky to have found a field that both excites and challenges me on a daily basis. With the start of my fourth year in graduate school, I began to ponder the next step in my career path. Around the same time, I noticed advertisements for the start of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative at Northwestern. I decided to join the group in the hopes of meeting and learning from women at different stages in their careers. So far, each STEM circuits meeting has been incredibly well-organized and insightful. I think my favorite part has been the sense of community at the meetings, as we are brought together by our mutual desire for mentorship. It has been exciting to be a part of this growing initiative and I look forward to seeing what else the program has in store this year.
As Science Olympiad Executive Director and Senior Vice President of Marketing Communications, I oversee the operations of Science Olympiad and manage sponsor program implementation with Fortune 500 businesses, government agencies, scientific associations and institutions of higher education.
Two of my proudest achievements have been developing the Science Olympiad Urban Schools Initiative and expanding the Elementary Science Olympiad. I was honored to organize six White House Science Fairs with the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and to act as Science Olympiad liaison to the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
I volunteer on many civic boards and committees including the Science Olympiad Executive Board, the Illinois Governor’s P-20 Council College and Career Readiness Committee, the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute Workforce Development Committee and the NBC Telemundo Chicago Community Action Board. I’m a member of The Executives’ Club of Chicago, have served as Democratic Precinct Committeewoman for York Township in DuPage County for 12 years and am the Illinois State Chair for Million Women Mentors, a national initiative dedicated to expanding opportunities for women and girls in STEM. Senator Tammy Duckworth serves as our Honorary State Chair.
Through these positions, I strive to connect the dots between K-12, higher education and industry, creating workforce development programs, securing grants for underserved communities, and providing more opportunities for students who need help lighting a career pathway. I’ve written about bridging the STEM skills and gender gaps for ArcelorMittal and MENTOR and have spoken about the power of effective mentoring programs at four Million Women Mentors Summits in Washington, DC. Interested? Reach out to email@example.com
Science Olympiad is a Chicago-area based, national non-profit organization founded in 1984 dedicated to improving the quality of K-12 STEM education, increasing student interest in science, creating a technologically literate workforce and providing recognition for outstanding achievement by both students and teachers. More than 230,000 secondary students on 7,900 teams from all 50 states competed in 450 regional, state and national Science Olympiad tournaments last year.
I completed my B.A. in Psychology at the University of Rochester in 2014, which is where my passion for science and research began. I was a Head Research Assistant working with Dr. Jeremy Jamieson studying the impacts of stress on decisions, emotions, and performance. I then continued exploring my interest in the sciences through summer research with Dr. Elyse Bolterstein at Northeastern Illinois University where I was able to study DNA repair proteins and premature aging in Drosophila Melanogaster. These experiences together motivated me to pursue my lifelong interest in reproductive sciences and the medical field. Therefore, I matriculated into the Masters of Reproductive Science and Medicine program (MS-RSM) in The Graduate School of Northwestern University in fall of 2016. I joined the Duncan Laboratory in January of 2017, where my thesis research focused on the role of O-GlcNAcylation in oocytes from multiple species, including mouse, bovine, and human (First published: 21 February 2019, https://doi.org/10.1002/mrd.23131). During my time in the MS-RSM program, I received the Constance Campbell Memorial Research Award for my poster presented at the 2017 Reproductive Science and Medicine Summit. Additionally, I was a recipient of the Constance Campbell Trainee Travel Award for spring 2018. Finally, I am the first ever student to receive the Makowski Award for Most Outstanding MS-RSM Student in June 2018. Currently, I am the research lab manager for Dr. Francesca E. Duncan in the OB/GYN department in the Feinberg School of Medicine. Additionally, I am actively involved and participate with the Center for Reproductive Science at Northwestern University, MS-RSM program at Northwestern University, Society for the Study of Reproduction, Women’s Health Research Institute, and the Oncofertility Consortium. I am very eager to continue engaging with the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative as promoting and supporting women in science is of high importance to me.
Our 2nd annual Chicago Women in STEM Symposium took place on the International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2019 at Northwestern University – Chicago campus. The event gathered more than 100 graduate students, postdocs, faculty, staff, and professionals from universities across the Chicago area. Over the course of half the day, the theme of the event, “Implicit biases in STEM,” was dissected through a very well-received interactive workshop, a series of stimulating short talks from women leaders in STEM and medicine, and an illuminating keynote lecture about problems and potential solutions to implicit biases. One attendee specifically stated, “I felt so empowered after this meeting. It was exactly what I needed.” In fact, in our post-event survey, more than 80% of the participants reported high satisfaction with the symposium overall and more than two-thirds agreed that the event, and the workshop in particular, significantly increased their confidence in interrupting incidences of bias against themselves and others.
The one take home message from the symposium is that implicit biases manifest as an obstacle to gender diversity at many levels: in women’s working conditions, in terms of their under-representation at the higher echelons, and in research funding processes. They are perpetuated by both men and women whether they are aware of it or not. Therefore, becoming actively aware of our biases will help us overcome the limitations that those biases bring into our lives. Furthermore, a supportive network by colleagues and family is one of the highly recommended approaches to combat against imposter syndrome, a by-product of implicit biases. For example, Dr. Shikha Jain, one of the invited speakers, shared some of the scrutiny she faced at her earlier career stage and the appreciation she has for her father who has never ceased to support and believe in her. Finally, it is equally important to remain persistent despite adversity in academia and STEM. Drs. Ropella and Ka Yee Lee’s stories encouraged us all to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses and continue to nurture emotional intelligence. For instance, Dr. Ka Yee Lee suggested we might benefit from being a little more open with others about our losses by compiling an “alternative” CV of failures, which could inspire a colleague to shake off a rejection and serve as a reminder that our response to failure is a key part of being a scientist.
It has been increasingly recognized and agreed upon that women are under-represented in STEM and Medicine, particularly at advanced career stages and leadership roles. Given the strong evidence that unconscious bias is a driving force behind ongoing gender disparities in STEM, it is our hope that this symposium and many more in the future, together with our ongoing interdisciplinary mentoring network (STEM Circuits), will help increase public appreciation for women’s potential and continue spreading the sense of empowerment and solidarity among women in STEM.
At the Miami University Leadershape Retreat in the summer of 2005 I defined my vision; to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) as my mother has secondary progressive MS. The steps I have taken so far include graduating from Miami University with a minor in neuroscience and graduating from Wright State University with a Master’s in Science after performing research as part of Dr. Alvarez’s Lab with a project on the extent of reformation of inhibitory synapses on injured/regenerating neurons and alteration of their properties. I performed my dissertation research at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as part of Dr. Nancy Ratner’s Lab with a project on disruption of white matter tracts in the central nervous system in gain of function Rasopathies. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of serving on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Ohio Valley Chapter board and currently serve the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter as a member of the associate board as Advocacy Chair. I am elated to work in the lab of Dr. Stephen D. Miller at Northwestern School of Medicine, in the department of Microbiology and Immunology as a post-doctoral fellow generously supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (2015-2018). My project on immunoregulatory and myelin repair therapeutics in T-Cell mediated mouse models of Multiple Sclerosis tests that combination therapy of immune regulation (i.e. only turning off the part of the immune system that is disrupted in MS) with myelin repair therapy could slow/ prevent further relapses and promote repair of damage. These pre-clinical trials may provide a novel and safe targeted approach that can be translated into effective disease-modifying therapies for MS patients. I intend to continue to work in translational medicine with a focus on remyelination and neuroimmunology.
I am Ana Moraes, I am a Postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in the Materials Research Center. My research at NU is focused on the development of functional nanomaterial inks for integration in printable battery components. I am also currently involved with the NU Postdoctoral Association as a chair of the career and professional development committee at the Evanston campus. I was raised and educated in my home country and I earned my Ph.D. in Chemistry in 2015 at University of Campinas (Brazil), where I conducted studies on the synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials applied to advanced functional composites for biomedical applications. I was a curious child that questioned everything, very passionate about natural phenomena and scientific discoveries. And my parents, who do not have a college degree, were able to provide me with a lot of books, which opened a whole new world for me and sparked my interest in the STEM field. That said, I am the first person in my immediate family to attend university and the only one in my extended family to pursue a Ph.D. degree. As a scientist, I believe that knowledge and education are agents of change and transformation in our society. The Chicago Women in STEM is a supportive network that keeps me empowered to pursue my career.
name is Rungmai Limvorapitux. I’m a chemistry PhD student in the Nguyen Group
at Northwestern University. I am originally from Thailand. After receiving a
scholarship from the Japanese government, I moved to Tokyo to pursue my
bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Work in STEM fields fascinated
me on how it improves lives and inspired me to learn more about its
applications, so I decided to continue my studies in the USA. Here, I
collaborate with groups of scientists and engineers to develop catalytic
materials for one-pot tandem reactions that reduce costs and increase
efficiency in chemical production processes. My projects are supported by
the Institute for Catalysis in Energy Processes (ICEP) which is funded by the U.S.
Department of Energy Office of Basic Science. My long-term goal is to
discover and utilize innovation to solve real-world problems.
Specifically, I would like to apply my technical knowledge in chemistry and
problem-solving skills to create solutions while having a deep understanding of
market drivers and business. The first big step in achieving your goals
is to believe in your own ability and be able to express it to those around
you. I hope that as a part of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative, we
can support each other and foster a strong community of successful woman in