In honor of Black History Month I was inspired to share my experiences participating in research training, mentoring programs and science organizations. I am grateful for all of my experiences and mentors that helped me become the woman in science that I am today. Coming from an inner city neighborhood and entering a big rural state university was like a dream. My main goal was to get a great education and learn as much as possible to prepare for a STEM career. Everything after that was an added bonus. I joined science organizations and reached out to science peers for support. For the first time I was able to see people in science that looked like me and I was determined to use the many resources that my university offered.
I participated in science programs such as the Women and Science and Engineering Orientation and the Minority Undergraduate Research Experience Program. These programs taught me the importance of leadership and strong mentoring. I gained research experience, scientific knowledge and confidence that I could pursue a science career. This inspired me to use my science background not only to include research but include helping other scientists, especially underrepresented groups.
I encourage everyone to seek mentoring, the earlier the better. If you are looking for science mentors check out research training programs, mentoring programs and science organizations. There is a mentor for everyone. As a Gates Millennium Scholar (GMS) later I went on to become a mentor in the GMS program. Then when I entered graduate school I served on the Graduate Student Association to help first-year graduate students transition. I am passionate about helping the next generations of scientists. Science is challenging and fun, but rewarding. At times in the midst of progress I was faced with moments of negativity. There were people who told me that I did not belong and that I would not achieve my goals. I did not let their negativity stop me. I’m sure most of us have experienced negativity or felt alone in science at one point. Don’t let that stop you. Keep moving forward, pave the way and soon there will be others like you in your career.
This is just a bit of my story and the reason why research training, mentoring programs and science organizations are important. It’s programs like the Bridge to Doctorate Program, BUILD, Meyerhoff, Minorities and Science and Engineering programs and Research Experiences for Undergraduate Program that give students the right tools and the preparation they need to become scientists. Being in a laboratory environment, working with PIs and learning the tricks of the trade in science will help students build the knowledge and confidence they need in a science career. When students are given the opportunity to do research and have good mentoring relationships they can grow into well-rounded scientists and STEM professionals.
Organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers, Association for Women in Science and Women in Science and Engineers Groups create an environment that foster diversity and representation. Students who participate in these organizations are more likely to stay in the STEM field. Also, these organizations help students build relationships with mentors/peers and professional development skills that will help them in their science careers.
There is room for everyone in science. I encourage you to check out my other blog posts and I wish you the best of luck in your science career!
What programs/organizations played a role in your science career? Share below.