The Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures” introduced the untold story of three African American women who helped send America to space.
More than 50 years later, women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Three female Winston-Salem State University sophomores are ready to break down the barriers, and a unique mentorship program is helping them reach their goals.
Through the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Foundation Women in Science Scholars, each student is paired with a GSK mentor who provides leadership by sharing her experiences and insights, and providing science career guidance. Students also have the opportunity to attend two annual events: an annual meeting in October and a conference in the spring. They also receive a scholarship.
Students are chosen based on their strong interest in science, their high-grade point average (3.0 or higher) and financial need.
“We are thrilled to support these students through this collaborative partnership,” said Dr. Carthene R. Bazemore-Walker, chief research officer and director of science initiatives at WSSU. “Mentoring is an important component in recruiting and retaining women in STEM, and we are committed to ensuring that WSSU students are positioned to take advantage of these and other opportunities in advancing their STEM education.”
We caught up with the three scholars to see what the program means to them. Their answers are below.
Hometown: High Point
What is your ultimate career goal? To become a successful geneticist.
How has the program helped you toward your ultimate goal? GSK is providing me with a network of resources, including my own mentor who is providing me with vital information and support. What I liked most about GSK program is the one-on-one mentor. I really like that I have someone guiding me into the right path that has experience of their own.
Why are you interested in becoming a geneticist? I want to help people understand how their genes contribute to their everyday life. When I found out that I was a carrier for sickle cells, I panicked, assuming that I had the actual trait and symptoms. Instead of using that energy for panicking, I want to use that energy toward understanding and preventing hereditary diseases.
Who is your GSK mentor? My mentor is the lovely immunologist, Susan Smith. She’s a very encouraging person who has enlightened me with her stories on how she became the woman she is today. She is also down to earth, meaning someone you can just talk and joke around with.
Why should more women pursue science careers? I believe everyone has the ability to think and ask questions, regardless of gender. Sometimes, because we think differently from men, then it can open more doors. Plus, there’s too much testosterone roaming the science industry, if you ask me. Let’s do it ladies!
What is your ultimate career goal? To become an emergency room doctor
How has the program helped you toward your ultimate goal? This program is helping to guide me toward my future career goals by providing me with a mentor who has experience in the field of biology, chemistry and medicine. What I like most about this program is that it gives you a mentor who can help guide you in the right direction.
Why are you interested in becoming an ER doctor? This interest started as a child when my mother had a massive heart attack. I was curious on how this could have happened. So, I began to research about the human body. This led me to research the diseases and injures the human body can take. One thing that contributed to my decision of become an emergency room doctor is my family’s health history. In my senior year of high school, my grandmother was misdiagnosed with pneumonia. Later, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, which was re-occurring from her previous fight. This misdiagnosis angered me so much that I am thriving to become a doctor and do everything to help correctly diagnose a person and give the best care. I want to explore the world of medicine, disease, disorders, and help people in all areas while still learning. So, I want a career that involves me dealing with everything and everyone. As an ER doctor, you never know what will come in those doors, and this excites me because I get to see and learn something new every day.
Who is your GSK mentor? Susan Harless Smith, Ph.D. She is an immunologist.
Why should more women pursue science careers? Women often do not think about becoming a biologist, chemist, biochemist, engineer or mathematician. I think we as females are held to a standard to become a caregiver. I believe that breaking the standards and following your dreams to become whatever you want to be is beyond good.
What is your ultimate career goal? To become a dentist.
How has the program helped you toward your ultimate goal? This program has given me more knowledge and exposure in my science career. The best thing about this program is being assigned a mentor. It allows me to broaden my networking and knowledge that I didn’t have before.
Why are you interested in becoming a dentist? I like the fact that I can help build up someone’s self-confidence about their appearance.
Who is your GSK mentor? Renu Jain, a clinical researcher.
Why should more women pursue science careers? I feel as though women who pursue careers the STEM field are more knowledgeable in different aspects of the world. STEM majors are taught to think critically which shapes their minds to always think what is next, why this is happening and how this can affect someone. This type of mindset can rule the world.