interviews

INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

INTERVIEW: Science Engagement Research Partner Tina Blackmore

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Tina Blackmore, who works as a  Science Engagement Research Partner for MARS.


 

Q:  Hello, Tina!  First of all, I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer some questions for our readers!

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My first question has to do with how you got to where you are today – the basics. I was told that you wanted to be a veterinarian as a teenager!  What sparked your love for animals and inspired you to try to get into veterinary work?

A: Although I only had pet hamsters as a small child, I used to have horse riding lessons, and with that also came frequent contact with all the dogs and cats that were residents at the riding school.

I have always loved solving problems and think that is why, in part, I enjoy science so much. Veterinary science seemed the obvious way to link the two by providing an ill animal treatment after diagnosing them. However, whilst my original desire was to pursue a career in veterinary science, I decided to re-think my career following a couple of weeks of work experience at different vet practices. So, I continued to follow my love of science through academia, which led me to research. When I was younger, it was never suggested that I could combine animals and science through research, yet it is due to this that I am in my current role. 

 

Q:  Now you work as a Science Engagement Research Partner.  What sparked the change in interests?

A: My PhD was about a common disease for ponies, which meant I met a lot of horse owners who were keen to find out more about the research project. This allowed me to explore the ways in which I could explain the ideas, aims and results of my work to non-specialist audiences, whilst maintaining scientific accuracy. As a result, I developed an interest in science communication and a passion for making science accessible to anyone who wants to know more. This then led to my current role as the Science Engagement Research Partner for WALTHAM, part of Mars Petcare. 

 

Q: What basic message do you hope that your particular brand of science communication gets across?  What strategies do you use to get your point across?

A: All of the science communication at Mars Petcare ladders up to demonstrate how we can deliver our vision: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS™. There are a number of ways in which we do this, but our activities and campaigns are underpinned by scientific studies. WALTHAM, as a Mars Petcare research centre, is the primary publisher of original peer-reviewed papers and therefore a significant contributor to science communications by Mars Petcare. The key findings of these studies are then amplified by the Global Science Communication team across numerous media outlets. 

 

Q:  Other than science communication, what does your job at MARS as a “Science Engagement Research Partner” for Pet Nutrition entail?

A:  Mars Petcare now has over 70,000 Associates (employees). Ensuring that everyone understands how the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition and its science contributes to the ecosystem is essential. We do this by sharing the work we do with visitors to the pet centre on a guided tour, in addition to internal communications. This is supported by the Communications teams at WALTHAM.

 

 

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Q: What would you say is your favorite part of your job?  What is the most rewarding portion?

A: It’s really rewarding to be able to share the great science we do at the pet centre and how this extends to support all the areas under the Mars Petcare banner. I love being able to aid peoples understanding in an area that excites them. Comments like ‘wow, I never knew that’ epitomise that feeling. 

 

Q:  Do you have any advice for those getting into science communication? 

A: Speak to as many people as possible about an area of science that really excites you. Your passion will shine through, and being able to explain a topic that you know so well to those with limited knowledge in the area provides valuable learning experiences.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

INTERVIEW: Senior Technologist Ana Garcia-Marchan

 

A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Ana Garcia-Marchan, who works is a Senior Technologist for MARS.


Q :  Hello, Ana!  First of all, I want to thank you very much for taking time out of your day to answer some of my questions for my readers!

So, for my first question, I want to ask something basic:  What exactly is your job in STEM?  I was told that you were a Senior Technologist at MARS.  What does that entail exactly?

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A: Being a Quality & Food Safety (Q&FS) Senior Technologist really means being an advocate for quality of our Mars Food products, including Uncle Ben’s and Seeds of Change. I work with factory managers and maintenance teams to help lead multiple Quality Management Processes, including Mars’ Internal Audit and Q&FS Management Review. Through risk assessment, I help drive improvements in Mars’ current manufacturing processes and systems by collaborating with different departments and implementing creative solutions to issues. For example, if an incident occurs and a product is placed on hold, I will not only investigate the incident but develop corrective actions to ensure that this does not occur again. 

 

 I also participate in external audits and inspections from the Mississippi Department of Health.

 

Q:  I was also told that you, as a biochemistry major, believe that STEM plays a huge role in the food industry.  Would you elaborate on why you believe that STEM has such a large role in the industry?  Sometimes, I believe this aspect of STEM gets overlooked.

A: STEM is really about bringing together the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math to; innovate, work on complex and interesting projects, and achieve a common goal.

Having been a biochemistry major, I see similarities between the food industry and biochemistry because both are complex and diverse. Metabolic pathways (biochemistry) and the food industry have steps that convert substrates/raw ingredients into a finished product. Each step is critical, complex, and is the key to the next step. In biochemistry, specifically in a metabolic pathway, each reaction produces a product, and that product becomes the substrate for the next step. Similar to biochemistry, the food industry takes raw materials and converts them into a finished product with the goal of getting consumed. 

I love being able to apply my knowledge of biochemistry to the food industry and being a part of a team that brings products to life. 

 

Q: What would you say the main goal of your STEM field is?

A: The main goal of my STEM field is to apply the concept of biochemistry not just to the processes that occur within living organisms but relate the same processes within day to day activity. 

 

Q:  How did you begin to pursue this career? What made you interested in this line of work?

A: Growing up, seeing my mother’s ability to use raw ingredients to create a meal sparked my interest in STEM. Many can cook, but I was so impressed by the science behind the art of cooking and how my mother mastered both. Once I got to school, science courses really gave me that hands-on learning experience and reinforced my educational aspirations within STEM.

 

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Q:  What does a typical day in your job look like?  And what’s the most exciting part of your day — or something about your job that you enjoy the most?

A:  Freedom- let me explain… My job is not the same every day. Although I have responsibilities and deadlines, I love that each day is different. One day I may be pulling a cross-functional team and brainstorming solutions to a particular problem and another day I may be leading quality and food safety training. 

 

Q:  Do you work in a laboratory?  Or does your field of STEM require that your work in other places that may not be seen as common places that science is conducted?

A: My field of STEM requires me to work in a manufacturing plant which is not what you would expect. There seems to be a misunderstanding that if you have a STEM degree, specifically a science related degree, that you must work in a laboratory. 

 

Q:  If you had some advice for girls or other women looking to pursue your career, what would you say to them?

A:  I encourage young women to reach out to resources (teachers, those who work in STEM fields, community groups, friends, family, etc.) to learn more about the endless possibilities within STEM. Don’t be afraid to apply to competitive schools or seek out learning opportunities within STEM wherever you may be. Join a STEM related club or activity and get involved in whatever way you can. The creativity and innovation that stems from STEM-related fields is essential to creating impactful, positive and far-reaching change.

 

 
This article was not sponsored.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


 
 

INTERVIEW: Cui Wang Ph.D: Microbiology Science Team For MARS

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A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Cui Wang, who works in the Global Food Safety Center for MARS in Beijing.

 


 

Q:  Hello, Cui!  Thank you so much for sitting down to answer some of these questions.  I know that our readers are going to find your job in STEM fascinating!  Food safety isn’t always something we talk about until there’s a dangerous bacterial breakout of some kind due to something wrong with our food.

So, to go along with that, my first question is: what sparked your interest in the science of food safety?

 

A:  In line with my original plan to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry, I started out conducting research to support the production of vaccines from fermentation at the beginning of graduate school. However, my interests changed after several serious food safety incidents were reported just after I had my first baby.  

 

I suddenly realized the importance and value of food safety and decided to adjust my career path to help ensure and secure the safety of safe and healthy food. I really hope that I can leverage my expertise to help reduce the risk of food safety issues in the future and this is what I’m working on  together with my fellow Associates at the Mars Global Food Safety Center.

 

I love food and I’m passionate about this space, which definitely helps! Conducting this meaningful work is my passion so I am constantly encouraged to go further.

 

Q:  What steps were taken in order for you to reach your PhD in Applied and Environmental Microbiology?

 

A: I took the opportunity to be a research assistant supporting projects in two national key labs while I was in university and this is where I discovered my interest in Applied and Environmental Biology (AEM) research. I began preparing applications for PhD programs in AEM, which meant taking the TOEFL, GRE tests and going through the interview process, etc. After successfully obtaining a place at Georgia State University, I spent the first two years attending training courses to learn new microbiological lab skills, and designing and writing the proposal for my PhD project based on my committees’ instructions and my interests.

 

At the same time, I was a teaching assistant supporting biology and microbiology courses for major and non-major college students. After passing the necessary exams, I became a senior PhD student and started my proposed project and also took part in other related projects. I trained several Masters and junior PhD students to become team members so that they could support different research projects in areas such as scale-up fermentation, molecular biology, protein purification, anti-fungal research and fruit ripening research. As part of this, I also communicated and collaborated with other senior PhD students, professors, and experts during seminars and conferences, and even through daily work. This helped to accelerate my development through brainstorming projects combined with coaching and mentoring. Of course, conducting experiments and spending a great deal of time in the lab were essential in demonstrating the hypothesis of my proposal. With solid data from these experiments, I passed my dissertation and finally received my PhD.

 

Q:  Can you briefly explain what a day at your job as a microbiology research scientist is like?

 

A:  At the Mars Global Food Safety Center, I conduct scientific research to generate insights and explore solutions for some of the biggest food safety challenges facing the industry today. For example, I am leading several research projects focused on controlling aflatoxins, one of the most potent, naturally occurring liver carcinogens that we know of today.

 

On our planet, 4.5 billion people consume food that contains aflatoxins every day. One of my projects aims to understand the correlation between the reuse of jute bags for ingredient storage (for example maize) and mycotoxin risk. 

 

I also aim to provide practical advice that could be easily adopted by farmers to help them reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination. To accomplish projects such as this, it is necessary to keep close communication with our global partners, whilst also being able to deliver our work in the lab. During the working day, I design technical plans to achieve the objectives of my projects, train the lab assistants and conduct experiments with them, analyze data, conduct trouble shooting and review the progress of projects. I also communicate food safety information with internal and external resources, and support other team members as a consultant.

 

 

Q:  Something I found interesting about your position is that I was told that it was non-competitive.  So, the information that you discover and research is shared across the world with different partners, so that we can all have access to this information on how to keep our food safer.  That’s a kind of science communication!  Do you find that this non-competitive atmosphere makes your position more enjoyable, and more engaging?  And do you ever learn anything from the partners you work with?

 

A: At the Mars Global Food Safety Center, being non-competitive means that we aim to share and communicate the results of our work in the public domain to help raise the bar for all. This creates a very positive environment for the food industry and the food supply chain, as well as for scientists to conduct their research. We believe that food safety is a basic human right, and we actively seek to work collaboratively with other entities to ensure safer food for all.

 

As a research scientist, in such an atmosphere, I have more space and resources to think, discover, and solve real problems and challenges in food safety. I can communicate and collaborate with other scientists or experts even from other companies or institutions, which makes my work more effective and engaging. In return, I experience great support and encouragement from my partners, and I believe that together we really can help provide more people with access to safe food.

 

Q:  I was told that you were also involved in other forms of science communication.  You work with the ‘China Children and Teenager’s Fund’, and help these kids learn more about food safety.  What does this job entail?  Do you find that your work in this position is fruitful in your area?  Why or why not?

 

A: As a mother of two young boys, I firmly believe that food safety education needs to start from an early age. This could provide life-long benefits to the next generation. I’m very glad that I was able to take part in this mission by providing consultation and expertise to the ‘China National Children’s Food Safety Guard Campaign’, organized by China Nutrition and Health Food Association (CHNFA) and China Children and Teenager Foundation (CCTF). The Mars Global Food Safety Center is a key sponsor and initiator of this collaboration. Through the project, we designed interactive learning toolkits, video and painting books with food safety information for the children. The materials have been rolled out to more than 8 provinces in China, covering tens of thousands of kids, which makes me feel very proud. 

 

Q:  What would you say the biggest challenge in your field is?  Anything in particular?

 

A:  Some of the biggest challenges in food safety come from the global nature of the food supply chain, which today creates many common touch points among industry, regulators, customers, and consumers. More than ever before, food and food ingredients are being shipped around the world.  A food safety issue or risk from one raw material, one company, or one region, can now quickly expand to be a global problem. For example, my research projects related to mycotoxin caused by the fungal contamination of grains such as corn, wheat, and rice, is a big concern for the supply chain globally. That’s why we are trying to work with our global partners in a more collaborative way than ever before. 

 

Q:  Do you have any advice for those looking into pursuing your field of STEM?

 

A:   Follow your real passion and get to know what your true area of interest is. Try to find a mentor or coach throughout your career and use him or her as a role model that can inspire and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.  And in your work life seek out sponsors, people that will look out for you, help plan your career path and work with you to help you realize your full potential. Lastly, do not forget to take a moment to enjoy your life and spend time with your family. 

 

  

*This post was not sponsored by Mars Inc.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



INTERVIEW: Valerie Maldonado Senior Engineer Process Developer for MARS

 
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A few weeks ago, MARS INC. contacted me, asking me to interview four of their Women in STEM.*  Over the next few weeks, their interviews will be posting one by one.

This interview is with Valerie Maldonado, Fruity Confections CBU Mars Wrigley Confectionery here in the US.

 


 

Q: Valerie, first of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions I had for you regarding your STEM job at MARS.


My first question, since your job focuses on the development of new candy, such as Starburst, I have to ask: What does candy have to do with STEM?

 

A: Making chocolate, candy, gum and mints is no different than cooking. Our role in Research & Development (R&D) is to ensure that we deliver high-quality products to millions of consumers all over the world. We have to apply science and engineering to guarantee that every product someone buys and tastes has the same great quality.

 

Q: What was it that first got you interested in STEM? And when did you know you wanted to pursue a career in STEM?

 

A: When I was in the third grade, we had the opportunity to visit a gum and candy factory in my hometown of Caracas, Venezuela as part of a school trip. I was so excited about the opportunity that I made my mom volunteer as a chaperone so that she could come with me too. I still remember the smell of bubblegum when we drove near the factory. That’s when I started becoming interested in how candies are made. My curiosity, along with an interest in math and chemistry, inspired me to pursue my degree in Chemical Engineering.

 
 

 

Q: What steps did you have to take in order to reach your goals in STEM?

 

A: During my undergraduate program in college, I had to work hard to get
through some of my classes as engineering coursework can be quite demanding. Many people are intimidated by the STEM fields because they believe you have to be extremely smart to get through school. Trust me, you will meet very smart people who are scientists and engineers, but the reality is that for the rest of us it takes more discipline and hard work than anything else.


Once I started my career, I was usually the only woman engineer in my teams. I had to learn to be confident and to stand up for what I believe in. Being the only woman in the room can be very intimidating, especially when you first start out in the field – not only are you the only woman, but you’re usually the youngest person. Learning to be persistent has been the key for me in driving my career forward.

 

Q: What exactly does being an “engineering consultant” mean? And in your current position as a “Senior Engineer Process Developer”, can you summarize what you do on a day-to- day basis?

 

A: When I was an engineer consultant, I worked with a team of engineers from all fields (electrical, civil, mechanical and chemical) and construction managers to execute projects at different factories. I had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of industries as the company operated in many fields: my first project was an oil spill cleanup and from there I worked on projects in soap, ice cream and engine oil manufacturing. It was a great place to learn and use the technical skills I had gained from my engineering education.

In my current role as Senior Engineer, Process Development, I’m either in the office, factories, or our pilot plant in Chicago. While I am in the office, I am typically collaborating with different team members working on our future innovations. I have projects that are four years out, but I’m also working on initiatives that are currently getting close to launch.


I travel to our factories across the globe to test new processes and formulas as we work through product and process development. I enjoy going to our factories and working with our teams at the sites to bring the formulations we have tested at a small scale in our Chicago pilot plant to life at scale.

 

Q: What kind of technology and equipment goes into candy making?

 

A: There is a lot of technology that goes into making our products in a consistent manner for millions of consumers all over the world. For making fruity products such as Starburst and Skittles, technology helps us make the toffee base, remove moisture and shape the products into their final form. I have always been impressed by the packaging machines we use for wrapping gum, which can wrap thousands of pieces of gum in one minute and move at such highly efficient speed.

 

Q: When I was told about you, I was told that you’re “an advocate for
emphasizing that you don’t have to be a ‘certain way’ to work in a STEM field”. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

 

A: There are stereotypes that are attached to the people who pursue careers in the STEM field. Being interested in science hasn’t always been the “cool” thing to do. My sophomore year of college, I met a friend in one of my chemical engineering core classes who later told me he thought I was lost when I entered the classroom the first day. He had firm reasons to think so: women were the minority in engineering classrooms at that time and I am Latina. Throughout my career I’ve been asked if I’m in marketing or sales and people are usually surprised when I say I am an engineer. I strongly believe that regardless of the field you go into, you can be yourself and we should all embrace what is unique about us regardless of stereotypes.

 

Q: If you were to give advice to someone who wanted to work in this field, or a similar one, what would you tell them?

 

A: Studying STEM provides you with a very solid foundation for the rest of your life. I have many friends that have studied engineering who now work in other fields such as sales, marketing, supply chain, etc. and are thankful that
engineering prepared them with the problem solving and analytical skills that
allows them to excel in their careers. STEM fields set you up with a great deal of job possibilities—options that enable you to lead a great life with financial
independence.

  

*This post was not sponsored by Mars Inc.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.



Interview: Harshita Arora and Her App Crypto Price Tracker

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Back in the last month of 2017, it felt like the only thing we were hearing about was the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Though it had started the year being worth $1,000, it had a huge spike in December that sparked the news media, having reached a worth of $17,000.

 

Bitcoin may be the most popular cryptocurrency (at least in the United States), but it is far from the only cryptocurrency in circulation.  It can be hard enough to keep track of Bitcoin, let alone the hundreds of other types of cryptocurrency around the world.  However, as the world starts to become interested in the world of cryptocurrency, and as the world begins to lean on it, it’s important to keep track of its real world worth.

 

Harshita Arora, a 16-year-old coder, created an application just for that.

 

 
 
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Crypto Price Tracker, which made it to Apple’s App Store Top Charts, was published just last month on January 28th, 2018.  Harshita, the mastermind behind the app, was kind enough to offer me a free version of the application in order to review it.*  Honestly, the app was incredible.  It was smooth; it functioned well; there were no crashes or bugs that I could see.  It’s a simple app, but it’s simplicity doesn’t take away from it’s beauty — in fact, it may just add to it.

 

DOWNLOAD THE APP FOR IOS

 

After viewing the app and playing around with it, I decided to ask if Harshita would be willing to answer some of my questions about the application.  She was completely willing to!

 

Q: First of all, I want to thank you for being willing to sit down and answer these questions! I think that our readers will throughly enjoy this! 

 

A: Thank you so much for having me! I hope my answers will help people! (: 

 

Q: What inspired you to design this application in the first place? And what got you interested in Cryptocurrency? 

 

A: I’ve shared my story of what inspired me to create Crypto Price Tracker here. In short, I was frustrated of using horribly-designed price tracking apps (not to mention, full of ads) with often inaccurate prices and alerts. I researched more and identified that there was a market need for a better and improved app. So I went ahead and created one :D


I remember the first time I came across the term cryptocurrency was in 2016. I read an article in a tech magazine (Digit) about Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining. Blockchain and building software on blockchain framework was a very interesting concept and business opportunity. Though, I never got around to building products in the field, as I was working on other projects. But in 2017, cryptos were just everywhere online. My Facebook and Quora feed were flooded with content related to cryptos and blockchain. So I started reading more online and got interested in cryptos. 

 

Q: What is the general goal of your application? 

 

A: Crypto Price Tracker helps users track prices of 1000+ cryptocurrencies from over 19 exchanges, set price alerts, manage crypto portfolio, and much more. The goal I had when I started out was to create one app where people can find and do everything they want to, to keep themselves up-to-date with cryptocurrencies and their prices, and manage their portfolio if they’ve invested in cryptos. 

 

 
 
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Q: How long did it take for you to code, design, and develop this application before it was ready to submit?

 

A: I started in November 2017 and I released the app on 28th January 2018. So it was a 2-3 months long journey from start to finish. It’s been an interesting ride! I’ve shared the journey until launch here in this post. I’m writing a post on launching, marketing, and getting feedback. 

 

 

Q: What was the beginning process of developing an application like this? Did you write the code from scratch, or use some sort of base? Was this for a classroom project, or just in your free time? 

 

A: The process started with having a product spec so that I know what features will go into the app. Then I began drawing user-flow diagrams and wireframes for each screen. I then designed all screens using Affinity Designer. That process took 3-4 weeks. I’ve shared my learnings and advice on how to design beautiful apps in this post. 

 

After designs were ready and imported in Xcode, that’s when I moved on to coding. Developing iOS apps is a lot of fun and the code was written from scratch. I used a lot of libraries, frameworks, and cocoapods. Mainly: SwiftyJSON, Alamofire, Charts, Popup Dialog, and CoreData. I couldn’t have developed the app without my mentors, Aviral and Bhavish. They were super critical in coding the app. And my friend, Harsh built the back-end on Firebase. 

 

It was not a classroom project since I do not go to school. I’ve been an unschooler for 1.5 years. Crypto Price Tracker is my first solo app. 

 

Q: How did you learn how to code, and what makes you so passionate about coding? 

 

A: I learned digital design and app design when I was 14 from my CS teacher. He’d assign really interesting projects to build, to give students real world design experience. He introduced me to Google’s Scratch and MIT App Inventor. I used to play around with them all day, for months, and that’s where I learnt basic programming concepts and built projects. Then I got the opportunity to intern at Salesforce in winter 2016 – which is where I got exposure to working in tech for the first time. 

 

I love designing and building products. And being able to build valuable software that solves a market need is a super fun and rewarding process. 

 

 
 

Q: Are you looking forward to creating new applications as well? And will they be long similar lines, or do you have new ideas that have nothing to do with Cryptocurrency? 

 

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A: Yes! I’ve recently started working on an AI app with a friend. It’s an app in Health and Fitness – so a completely different market. I’d be sharing more on this app on my Medium in a few weeks! 

 

Q: Have you received a lot of positive feedback and support from anyone in particular? Strangers reviewing the application, or family members and friends? 

 

A: Yes! When I started out with this app, 5-6 of my friends in crypto helped me understand a lot of terms and concepts in crypto and helped me a lot in figuring out the features that people/users want. When I had a prototype in Adobe XD, I asked my friends to test it out and they gave a lot of positive feedback and suggestions for improvements. ~50 of my friends tested the beta when it was on TestFlight, which was 1 week prior to planned submission. I never got any strangers to test the app until v1.0 release. After the release, my inbox was flooded with emails from happy users sharing feedback and things to work on. 

 

Q: Would you call the application an overall success and a driving point in your coding career? Why? 

 

A: I think Crypto Price Tracker has been pretty successful in acquiring users and retaining them. I’ve gotten 1,500+ downloads in 2 weeks. It was #2 app in Finance in the App Store top charts for paid apps within 24 hours of launch. It was featured on Product Hunt. A post about it on reddit got a lot of virality. And tons more good things have happened! I’m also getting acquisition offers right now. I’d say yes, it was definitely a driving point in my career in tech. 

 

Q: What would you say as a word of advice to anyone looking to get into coding themselves? 

 

A: Something I wish more people knew is that there’s a lot of resources online to ask questions if you get stuck. My favorite website is codementor.io. I’ve met a few of my coding mentors on the platform when I had questions. 

Another useful resource to ask questions (though you can’t get 1-on-1 mentoring) would be: Quora, reddit, StackOverflow. 

When learning to code, and especially if you’re self-learning with online courses and books, you will get stuck a lot. Knowing where to ask questions from more experience programmers and developers can help a lot! 

 

I cannot recommend downloading this application enough.  Even if you don’t know anything about cryptocurrency, it’s amazing to see this young woman excel at what she loves to do — and to help support her.  You can download the app on IOS devices here.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

 

Interview: Emily Beasley and the Behavioral Ecology of Gulls


 

When you think of scientists studying animals, the first think you think of might not be a seagull.  Especially since, as we mention later, gulls tend to get somewhat of a bad reputation.  You think of gulls and you think of annoying pests on the beach, trying to steal your french fries.  But this scientist doesn't see gulls as the average beach-goer might.

 

Meet Emily Beasley, a Behavioral Ecologist who is most interested in studying seagulls, and loves to do it.  We talked to her earlier this month, asking her about her job and how she entered the field in the first place, and what specifically she has learned in her study of seagulls.

 

 

Q:  First of all, to start things off, Emily, I want to say thank you for sitting down with me today and taking time out of your day to answer some of our questions! I know you've been extremely busy lately, so this means a lot! I’m sure our readers will enjoy this throughly.

 

A: It’s my pleasure!

 

Q:  I want to start off with a basic question about what you do.  So your field of study is Behavioral Ecology, which is the study of animal behavior as related to adaption, causation, and development, correct? 

 

A: Yes, that’s exactly right.  It also involves examining how environmental factors impact on changes in animal behavior.

 

Q:  Very cool.  This kind of science has always been right up my alley.  So I’m curious: How did you find yourself in this field of study and how long have you been researching animal behavior?

 

A: I’ve always loved animals and have had pets all my life.  I started riding horses when I was ten and eventually I got a job doing barn chores and teaching riding lessons.  But it really took shape for me when I was an undergraduate student.  I got the opportunity to work at a pet store that did a lot of animal adoptions, and we also hand-raised baby parrots.

 

For my undergraduate dissertation I did a research project on the impact of ecological validity in puzzle solving abilities of Congo African Parrots.  My supervisor at the time, Professor Maryanne Fisher, connected me with Professor Tom Dickens who runs a field trip to Lundy Island in the UK every year.  I did the field study and absolutely loved it.  I spent a lot of time with Dr. Rob Spencer  watching a gull colony on the island and I was hooked.

 

When it came time for me to apply to grad school, there was an opportunity to work with Tom and Rob again at Middlesex University in London.

 

Q: All of that sounds extremely fascinating and really, really fun.  Especially the opportunity to do the field study.  That must’ve been a fantastic trip — I can’t even imagine. What’s your favorite part about the process of studying animal behavior?  Do you have a favorite step, or something else about the research that you enjoy the most? 

 

A: It was wonderful.  I’ve been back to Lundy every year since that first trip and I still love it.

I really enjoy collecting data.  Being in the field is my favorite place to be, whether it’s in a city looking at urban wildlife or on a remote island watching seabirds.  A lot of work foes into developing and piloting a project before you can go out and collect data, so it’s really rewarding when you see all of your efforts come together.  It’s also a chance to observe the animals in their natural environment and see how they interact with each other and the environment.  You can learn a lot by just attentively watching your study species.

 

Q: Oh, I bet.  As kids, when you’re watching animals in your own backyard you can learn a lot, so I can’t even imagine how much you’d be able to learn on a trip like that!  Judging by your twitter, your favorite animal to study are birds.  And it would appear that you have a project going on right now to study gulls in urban areas!  What specifically are you hoping to learn with this project?

 

A:  Yes, they definetely are my favorite!

I actually just finished my Master of Science by Research degree from Middlesex.  I was studying a population of Lesser Black-backed gulls and Herring gulls in Bath, England.  I was interested in gull-human interactions, and gull populations dynamics across the breeding season.

I collected data for 5 months over the 2017 breeding season.  What I found was that the population of foraging gulls in the city fluctuated throughout the breeding season.

The phases in the breeding season were divided by major events that generally happen around the same time every year.  The phases are:

 

1 — Settling; when the adult gulls return to the breeding sites.

2 — Laying; when the females lay their eggs.

3 — Incubation; incubation of the eggs, which is shared by both parents in my study species.

4 — Rearing; once the chicks have hatched and the parents start to provision them.  And finally:

5 — Fledging; when the chicks leave the next and learn to forage on their own.

 

There tended to be more gulls in town during the rearing and fledging phases.  This was likely because there was pressure on the adult gulls to provision their growing chicks with more food.

 

The key findings with regards to gull nuisance behavior were that there was no gull aggression towards humans at all during the course of the breeding season. Gull nuisance occurred more frequently near the end of the breeding season, when the chicks were beginning to fledge, but even then I didn’t observe much nuisance behavior.

 

Gulls get a bit of a bad reputation, but they’re actually very intelligent, long-lived birds.  Also, all species of breeding gulls in the UK are considered birds of conservation, concern, and the Herring gull is red listed (globally threatened) due to severe declines in their national breeding populations, so it’s really important that people work together to help these gulls instead of vilify them.

 

Q:  Okay — so this project had already taken place then.  All of that is really incredible, actually.  And I agree with you; there are a lot of animals we tend to vilify solely because of ignorance.  But when you think about animals who have a bad rap, you tend to think of animals like sharks, or predator-creatures, and there tend to be more people on the side of trying to get them to have a better reputation than on an animal like the gull.  So I think this is really important research you did, and I need to admit it wasn’t even something I had thought about on my own.  I’d love to hear more about this at another time!  Are you planning on publishing this research?

 

And then, if you were to give advice to someone looking to enter the same field of research as you, what do you think you would tell them?

 

A:  I totally agree with you!  Thank you — there are a lot of great gull and seabird researchers in the UK trying to spread knowledge and I want to contribute as much as I can.  I would like to get it published.  I think it’s important to share what we’re doing as researchers with the rest of the academic community and with the non-academic community, too.

 

I’d say take opportunities as they come and always be open to new experiences.  Try to put yourself in situations where you are building skills that you would like to have, but also meeting people who are interested and already working in a field you want to enter.  You never know who you’re going to meet while you’re at a conference or volunteering.  Put yourself out there, do what you love, and share your passion with others.

 

Q:  I think that’s good advice!  Thank you so, so much for joining me again, Emily.  Really.  It’s been a really interesting chat, and I had a really nice time!

 

A:  I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you.  Thank you for your interest!

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Osteoarchaeologist Stephanie Jan Hamholfer Talks Her Career and How She Got Here

 

There’s a lot of ways that we can learn about our past and, in turn, our future.  One of those ways is by studying bones — our bones.  Or — rather — the bones of the deceased.

 

Meet Stephanie Jan Hamholfer. She is an Osteoarchaeologist based out of Canada.  She has an Associate of Arts degree in Criminology from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from the University of Alberta.  Currently, she is gaining her Masters at the University of Toronto.

 

Stephanie also has her own blog where you can read about her life and her studies here

 

Recently, I caught up with Stephanie and asked her some questions about her career in osteoarchaeology, and how she got there.

 

Q: I want to start off by telling you again how much I appreciate you getting in touch with us and your willingness to sit down and chat with me!  Thank you very much!  I really think our readers will get a lot out of learning about what it is you do! 

So your current focus is on human osteoarchaeology, or biological anthropology.  That seems to be kind of a unique field of study.  Would you like to briefly explain what that is for anyone who may not know?

 

A:  Sure!  Osteoarchaeology/Bioarchaeology is the study of human skeletal remains from archaeological sites.  Basically we're archaeologists with specialized skills and knowledge in excavating and interpreting human skeletons.  I use a book analogy.  Our skeletons are like books written in a language osteoarchaeologists are trained to read.  So we can study skeletal remains and find out about things like height, illness, trauma, occupations, diets, places we've lived, etc.

 

Q: That’s neat! I think people can be generally unaware of just how much you can learn from studying human bones. Everything you mentioned there is really a lot of information!

So I’d like to ask what made you interested in human osteoarchaeology in the first place?  Was it a particular teacher you had, or something you stumbled across that peaked your interest?

 

A:  I definitely stumbled into it, hahaha!  I was actually studying criminology at university and I had to fill some electives.  I had always been a bit curious about archaeology, so I signed up for that.  During the same semester there was a forensic anthropology course being offered.  I had never heard of forensic anthropology before but the course description sounded interesting so I went for it.  And I fell in love!  I finished up with criminology and decided to start over pursuing osteoarchaeology.

 

It was a combination of course content and a fantastic archaeology professor which definitely cemented my interest.

 

Once I realized I loved forensic anthropology and archaeology I wondered if there was a way for me to combine the two.  I had the opportunity to write a paper about the Franklin Expedition and that was when I realized that osteoarchaeology was a real career I could pursue!

 
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Q: Isn’t that funny how those things work, and how you think you’re going one way until you completely fall in love with something else? That’s a cool story, and it’s great that you had an excellent professor on top of it. That always helps.

But your twitter bio and your blog even proudly state that you’re “shark obsessed”! Is there a particular reason you decided to go into criminology and later anthropology instead of maybe studying to become a marine biologist?

 

A: To be honest I wasn't really sure of where to find shark-related marine biology programs that weren't in Florida or Australia (which I wouldn't be able to afford to attend).  I'm a first-generation university student so a lot of my university-related time has been spent simply trying to understand how the system(s) work!  By the time I had sorted things out archaeology had definitely become a more attainable goal that I was passionate about.  So now I happily advocate for shark research and shark conservation from the sidelines.  Though I definitely would love the opportunity to head out on a research vessel one day…

 

I follow a lot of shark research groups and scientists on social media and that's a way for me to feel like I'm still part of the community.

 

Q: That’s nice, and it’s also a good example to show that we can be interested in several different kinds of scientific studies. We don’t have to just stick to just one.  Hopefully you will get an opportunity to be on a research vessel! I’d imagine that’s incredibly cool!

So, I had a question about when you decided you wanted to pursue this route, but you kind of already answered that with your story about how you stumbled across osteoarchaeology in the first place! So how about I ask you about how you were featured in Science Magazine!

That’s awesome that you were featured, by the way. Congratulations!

So you were asked to advocate for your field in six words or less by Science Magazine.  You said: “The past shows us the future”.  I think that’s a great answer.  Would you like to elaborate on your thought process a bit for our readers?

 

A:  Thanks!  Science was a happy surprise, I didn't realize they had featured my response until my husband's lab colleague texted him, who texted me, hahaha!

Our society today is built on decisions made and actions taken in the past.  Archaeologists are kind of like human time-machines - we have a unique ability to "go back in time" and see the outcomes of decisions and actions, and in many cases we can also work out what the influences may have been.  We can look at the many different situations faced by people in the past, see how they reacted to them (or sometimes how they developed them), and see what worked and what didn't work.  Our society today faces many similar situations.  So if we can see what worked/didn't work in the past, we might be able to develop strategies to mitigate the present (situations like disease en/epidemics, climate change, food production, etc.).

 

 
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Q: I think we can all agree on that. And I think it’s too often that we don’t take what we’ve learned about the past and apply it to our future. What you do is very important to our society today, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I truly appreciate the research that you do!

So what would you say to anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in osteoarchaeology like you have?  Do you have any particular advice?

 

A:  I would tell them to look for any opportunity they can get for hands on experience!  Try to find a university with osteology courses and be sure to take as many of those courses as you can.  And look for any volunteer experience you can get, don't be afraid to send out emails to profs to ask if they might have any projects for volunteers!

 

Everyone’s path is different so what worked for one person may not work for the next. So I would also say to develop a plan that works best for you, in your situation, and don't be afraid to pursue it!

 

Q:  I think that is some very good advice!

Thanks so much for sitting down with me today and taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. I’m sure our readers will really enjoy this, and it means a lot to me. It was such an honor and so interesting to talk with you about this for a little while.

 

A:  Thank you very much for the chance to talk!  I enjoyed it very much and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to help spread the word about this awesome field!

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

How Important is the EPA? From an Actual Living Scientist.

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FemSTEM does not have a political affiliation.
This was published originally in 2017

 

The political climate has taken science down deep with it.  Though some people do not think the two should be mixed, people could argue that it absolutely has to be mixed.  With the EPA, the governmental agency that was installed in the 1970s, being at risk of a budget cut, or to even be dismantled completely, people are more and more concerned.

 

President Donald Trump has shown himself not exactly be a huge fan of the sciences.  Though he has talked about refocusing the EPA to improve air quality, he has also come out on more than one occasion as a climate change denier (without actually labeling himself as such), which worries many.  Scott Pruitt, the current head of the EPA, has also done the same.  With all this in mind, I wanted to pick the mind of someone who may have more of an inside clue into how important the EPA is in this day and age.

 

Recently, I got in contact with Samantha Stuhler.  She is a young scientist who works with asbestos every day, and knows a thing or two about harmful fibers that could potentially risk human lives.  I asked her about her job, and how she thinks the EPA affects human lives now, and what she thinks would happen if the budget cut goes through, or if congress does terminate the agency altogether.

 

Q: “Hi, Sam.  Thank you so much for  taking time our of your day and answering these questions for me!  Having an opinion come from someone who works in this field will be truly insightful.”

 

A:  “No Problem!”

 

Q:  “Would you be willing to explain what your position is, and what it is you do every day?”

 

A:  “Sure. I work for an environmental testing company as an analyst. My position involves the preparation and analysis of air and bulk samples for asbestos fiber content using various types of analytical methods and microscopes.”

 

Q:  “Wow!  That sounds a bit complicated and pretty fascinating.  How long have you been in this field?”

 

A:  “I’ve been working for this company since 2010, so almost seven years!

 

“I started off as solely doing prep work, but I was able to learn first PCM (phase contrast microscopy) analysis, which tests for fiber content in air, and then the more complicated TEM (transmission electron microscopy) analysis which uses a significantly larger microscope that allows for precise identification of individual fibers.”

 

 
 
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Q:   “Very nice!  It sounds like you’ve had good, steady growth in this field, and you’ve learned a lot from it!  With the fact that you work to protect customers from harmful asbestos fibers, I was wondering how you felt about the prospect of the EPA being in potential danger of shut down for the government.  Congress recently introduced a bill that could shut down the EPA altogether.  If the bill to shut down the EPA were to go through, would your job be directly effected?”

 

A:  “Well… yes, and no. Obviously we haven’t experienced this before, so I can only speculate.

 

“I say no, because there will always be buildings with asbestos in them. I live and work in New York City, and there are countless buildings here that were built before asbestos use was widely discontinued. When those buildings are being renovated and tested for asbestos, if the contractor is one of our clients, we may get their samples from their abatement procedures.

 

“(By the term “samples", I’m referring to anything from air cassettes for PCM/TEM analysis to pieces of building materials like floor tiles or plaster that are tested in the bulk lab. The laboratory that I work for is very diverse and also runs tests on mold samples, lead samples, various foods, and even does some forensic testing, but in general, we refer to each different item we receive as a “sample”.)

 

“I say yes, because without the EPA’s regulations on asbestos, I don’t know if my job would be there still. I would like to hope that it would, due to the fact that most people are aware of the <a href="http://www.dictionary.com/browse/carcinogenic">carcinogenic</a> effects of asbestos and finding out if it is present in buildings is important to do, but I don’t want to speculate.

 

“Another side of this coin is that potentially the use of asbestos could actually increase, which is something that I shudder to think about. The fact that the US actually hasn’t discontinued the use of asbestos completely despite knowing about all of the harmful effects is something that still blows my mind to think about, though the primary use of it is in products like brake pads and cement pipe, which I presume provide a low risk of inhalation of fibers.”

 

Q:  “It is kind of scary to think about.  FemSTEM will be sure to cover the harmful effects that asbestos can have in another article to better explain what you mean to anyone who may not be aware.  In my community, actually, there was recently some commotion over asbestos making people in a subdivision very, very sick.  It was scary.  Now, on a personal note, I’d like to ask how do you feel about the EPA?”

 

A:   “I appreciate the work that they do, and am very thankful for the regulations that they have in place. It’s nice to know that there’s a part of our government that’s dedicated to protecting our environment and coming up with ways to improve on the current conditions of our world.”

 

Q:  “When I spoke to you about doing this interview initially, you mentioned how schools rely on you the most.  How could schools and the children in school suffer if there aren’t safety measures being enforced?"

 

A: “There’s currently a special type of analysis that we do that was specifically created for use in schools. It’s called TEM AHERA (which stands for Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act) and involves a very specific method of fiber counting. The protocols that contractors have to go through in order to clear a school for students to be able to enter is extremely rigorous in order to be sure that there are no fibers in the air when students, teachers, and employees enter the building again.

 

“This is one of our primary jobs; a very significant portion of our samples are from schools in the city and surrounding areas. Whenever schools are out on break, whether it’s for a week or for summer, our sample count in-house increases substantially.

 

“As I mentioned before, older buildings still contain asbestos, and so a school built before the frequent use of asbestos was banned could still contain asbestos.

 

“If these rules aren’t enforced and this sort of careful and thorough testing isn’t implemented, then young kids (as well as parents, teachers, school employees, etc) could be exposed to asbestos, which like I said before, is a known carcinogen.”

 

Q:  “Without the EPA and agencies like it, we are really putting children in danger.  Putting adults in danger is bad enough, but considering that schools rely on you the most and even have their own, specific method of fiber counting makes you realize just how important it is to have these regulations. 

“Let’s refocus a little and assume that the bill to discontinue the EPA does not pass the House and Senate.

 “Let’s talk about Pruitt’s involvement.  I don’t want to get too political as FemSTEM does not have a political affiliation, but I am interested in your opinion as a scientist yourself.  

Your job does not directly relate to climate change, but as I’m sure you’re aware, Pruitt and Trump have promised to refocus the EPA 'on protecting air and water quality, while scrapping many of Obama's initiatives to curb carbon dioxide emissions'.  Can I ask what your personal thoughts on this are?”

 

A:  “I personally don’t see how cutting plans to curb CO2 emissions will help with making air quality any better. I’ll try not to get too political here (which is a bit hard for me in this political climate) but I don’t have much faith in this current administration’s ability to successfully do much of anything, especially in relation to the EPA.”

 

Q:  "Pruitt was quoted as saying: 'Environmental regulations should not occur in an economic vacuum. We can simultaneously pursue the mutual goals of environmental protection and economic growth'.  Do you believe this to be true?  Can we have mutual goals regarding the environment, people’s health, and economics?”

 

A:  “I don’t agree with anything that Pruitt has done so far, and it’ll take a lot for him to change my mind, especially after him saying that he doesn’t believe that CO2 has any effect on climate change. This probably relates more to your prior question, but I figured I should say it nonetheless.

 

“I think that in a perfect world, we can have mutual goals, but right now our country is too divided to easily find that mutuality. With some work though, I think it can be done.”

 

Q:  “I want to thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions for me.  I truly appreciate it, and I know our readers will as well. Getting your opinion was great, and I’m sure this will cause a lot of discussion. Thank you!”

 

A: “Not a problem! Thank you!”

 

There is no real way of knowing how much of an effect dismantling the EPA will really have until it happens — if it happens.  Both Trump’s budget proposal and the bill still need to go through the House and Senate and be approved by them before anything takes really affect.  Until then, we can only make estimations -- guesses -- until we see how things will continue.

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

Interview: Taylor Richardson is Taking the Space World By Storm

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Back in January, one girl decided to help other girls see the movie Hidden Figures so that they could be inspired to get into STEM. Taylor Richardson is a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut who is a huge activist in her community.  She had started an anti-bullying campaign, and she’s also a huge advocate for STEM fields.

 

Her mother, Toni Richardson, supports her all the way.  According to a Medium article about their story, Toni moved Taylor from South Carolina to Florida after Taylor was, unfortunately, bullied at her previous school.  She also helped start Taylor’s aforementioned GoFundMe campaign to send 100 girls to watch Hidden Figures, where they raised over $17,000 in just a month.

 

Taylor and Toni have been featured in many articles online and in other mainstream media because of their efforts.  From Fusion to Forbes, more and more people heard about their efforts.  Taylor also participated in April’s “March for Science” on Earth Day.

 

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Taylor and Toni Richardson, and Taylor agreed to answer some questions for me about how she 'rocks STEM' and how she decided to get her Hidden Figures campaign started, as well as some of her plans for the future.  Her answers below are inspirational and, frankly, quite amazing.

 

Q:  Hello, Taylor!  Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to fill these questions out!  You and your mother have been absolutely wonderful so far!

A: Thank you for speaking with me. It's truly an honor. I am a huge fan.  Thank you for your contributions in STEM as well.

 

Q:  So, I’m sure you’ve told this story before, but I wanted to ask you: what sparked your love for space and NASA? What made you want to become an astronaut?

A:  I've been interested in space and stars since I was five. What is outside our world. You know.  But when I read Find Where The Wind Goes by Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American women to go into space, I was really excited.  And then when I turned nine and old enough to attend space camp in Alabama I was like ‘I want to be an astronaut or do something in the STEM field to work for NASA one day’.

 

Q:  Could you explain to our readers what makes the study of space, and really science in general, so important to you?

A:  Wow, it’s a lot of reasons, but the main reason now to me is promoting science and space education in girls.  We need to inspire younger generations of girls to know that science/STEM  isn't a boy or girl game, it's everyone's game.  That it's important that girls know that with hard work they can not only become an aeronautical engineer whose job is to design a spaceship that could fly to Mars, but actually be the astronaut who's inside it. It's important to me that I use my platform to engage, inspire and have girls act on being in STEM fields.

 

Q:  The big news that went pretty viral about you was how you raised money for girls to watch Hidden Figures for free!  That’s amazing! What inspired you to raise the money for this cause? And was it difficult to raise the money? 

A:  I was inspired to raise money for a few girls to see the movie after attending a special screening at the White House with the cast and former First Lady, Michelle Obama.  Mrs. Obama said we as girls have to do the work and take those hard math classes and we have to keep the door open for girls to follow behind us.  So that inspired me to do a GoFundMe and raise money for a 100 girls in my city and give them the book to promote not only STEM, but literacy as well.

 

I still can't believe that I raised  almost $20,000, inspiring fundraisers in 28 states in 72 cities. I just wanted girls to see this movie and to see that we, as women/girls, even in the worst environments could still be great and do great things.  I wasn't sure if I would raise the money, but it wasn't difficult to raise because there were so many people who, like me, believed in the cause — which was to get girls to this movie so they could dream big and see girls who look like them achieving unbelievable tasks.  I'm really proud and so humbly grateful to everyone who contributed and changed lives in many little girls — over a 1000 of them in Jacksonville alone.

 

Q:  Because of what you did for your community and girls everywhere, you’ve been featured on a lot of different platforms recently.  Everything from womenyoushouldknow.net  to People Magazine.  How have you felt about this?  Has this attention been somewhat overwhelming?

A: I feel really good about it.  The attention from the many different and diverse platforms helps little girls who not only look like me but all girls see a girl in a blue suit and wonder can I be that or better yet I will be that. So I'm grateful for it.   I've talked with Forbes, Motto Time, even BBC News in the U.K. So it's amazing to help girls see we can not only be at the STEM table, but lead it.  The Hidden Figures movie, along with all the media attention, just makes it that much better for us girls.  It's showing representation matters in not only race but gender as well.

 

The attention has been a little overwhelming in that I'm really quiet and reserved, but it's given me a platform now to speak out and I'm not going anywhere. But it's all good, especially if we can inspire just one to know they can be at the STEM table.

 

Q:  Do you have any specific goals for your schooling?  A certain college you might want to attend, or other aspirations for your school career?  

A:  I am still middle school at the Bolles School and its curriculum is definitely keeping me engaged and preparing me for success.   I use my summers and some time during the year to attend robotics or engineering or flight events.  Of course visiting various space centers.  Wow, college.  I would love to tour and maybe attend  MIT, California Institute of Technology, or Clark Atlanta University to name a few and major in engineering or math. And I want to take flight lessons. That's about it for now, since I'm just 13. Lol.

 

Q:  If someone comes up to you, and asks you for advice on how to get started down the path of heading to space, what advice do you think you’d give them?

A:  I would tell youth to read everything they can find about it, find a mentor or maybe several, check out a few space centers, an internship, and then if still interested get busy in the classroom. As Mrs. Obama said, put down that snapchat and get into those advanced math and science classes. And most importantly, make sure you have a passion for space, not just for the money, but understand the unknown and ways to make our world a better place.

 

Q:  Thank you so much, again, for sitting down with us.  Our readers will very much enjoy this, I know it, and we truly appreciate it.  Good luck with everything, Taylor!

A: Thank you for speaking with me. Keep in touch.

 

 
 

Taylor Richardson Helped Send 14-year-old Kaitlyn to Space Camp!

 

 
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We recently interviewed Taylor Richardson, a young, aspiring astronaut, who raised money so that girls could watch the movie Hidden Figures for free.  Her good heart hasn't stopped there, though.

 

Recently Taylor Richardson, and her mother Toni Richardson, held an essay writing contest. The lucky winner would win a trip to a Space Camp.  "My first GoFundMe was to get me to Space Camp," Taylor told me.  "so I figured why not use the last bit of proceeds to help someone else go."

 

That lucky winner wound up being 14-year-old Kaitlyn Ludlam, and she will be going to a Space Camp in Huntsville, Al.

 

Kaitlyn herself said that she's been involved in STEM for as long as she can remember.  "For a long time I have designed, built, and programmed robots," Kaitlyn said in her essay.  "I have spent a lot of my free time studying Chemistry, Hydrology, Demography, Biology, Ecology, and every type of math availiable to me. [...]  After I go to college, I dream of becoming an engineer. [...]  I want to learn what I could do in the discovery of what is outside our planet and understand the phenomenons of space. Any book I read or article I find can never replace what I can learn at space camp."

 

Taylor Richardson surprised Kaitlyn at her school to announce Kaitlyn's win.  "I surprised her at her school,"  Taylor told me via email. "Did that and went straight to [my] school.  Long day, but productive."

 

Taylor's legacy of supportive and successful fundraising will not end there, either.  She told me:  "I'm about to start another campaign to raise funds for me and mom to travel to California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas [in the] summer. There are camps at these places like YEA camp (omg so excited) Black Girls Lead, and of course space centers.  My goal is get enough funds to travel and donate extra funds to these organizations for another kid next year."

 

FemSTEM will absolutely be supporting Taylor in her future endeavors as she continues to support and inspire other young girls in STEM.

 

And congrats, Kaitlyn! We read your essay, and you deserved this! 

 

 

 
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FemSTEM.com. She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.