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‘Science is everyone’s game:’ More Inspiration From CHOP’s Women in STEM

Published on March 23, 2022 in Cornerstone Blog · Last Updated 9 months 3 weeks ago
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Our women in STEM gallery features individuals nominated by their respective Center of Emphasis leaders

Our three-part women in STEM gallery features individuals nominated by their respective Center of Emphasis leaders.

From clinical research coordinators who help families understand the value of scientific studies to researchers who analyze heaps of data necessary for discovery, a remarkable group of women in STEM call Children's Hospital of Philadelphia home. Following the first installment of our Women's History Month series, eight more inspiring individuals are here to share their advice for the next generation.

Nominated by the respective leaders of their Centers of Emphasis at the Research Institute, these female researchers share the common goal of improving children's health in a variety of ways. These include bringing awareness to the importance of genetics in various pediatric disease, developing novel ways to screen for autism spectrum disorder, better understanding the neural mechanisms in concussion and headaches, and so much more.

Thriving in fields that have historically been underrepresented by women, they truly embody a quote referenced by one of our nominees, Alexandria Hope Thomas, and attributed to former NASA ambassador (and original Star Trek star) Nichelle Nichols: "Science is not a boy's game; it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game."

Alexandria Hope Thomas: 'Break barriers.'

Alexandria Hope Thomas

Alexandria Hope Thomas

Clinical Research Coordinator IV/Team Leader, Center for Applied Genomics

"As a woman in STEM, it's imperative that we encourage other women to seek careers that aren't typically natured toward us. I advise women who have interest in pursuing a STEM career to conquer those goals, and use their knowledge to break barriers. STEM careers have always been seen as male dominated, but as history has proven, women have a huge impact on the everyday changes in the sciences.

"I want women to know that we can impact so much more than what's been limited to our grasps. Choose that course, further your desire to know, and apply everything you have to succeed. For you never know what impacts you'll make for the future of science. As Nichelle Nichols, former NASA ambassador says, 'Science is not a boy's game; it's not a girl's game. It's everyone's game."

Cynthia Mollen, MD, MSCE: 'Give yourself grace.'

Cynthia Mollen, MD, MSCE

Cynthia Mollen, MD, MSCE

Chief, Division of Emergency Medicine

"Pursue your passion; find an incredible mentor, and then add more mentors to your team. Don't give up if you face obstacles, but also give yourself grace and be compassionate if things aren't moving forward as you had 'planned.' Your career will be long with lots of ups and downs!"

Carlyn Gentile Patterson, MD, PhD: 'Find your passion.'

Attending Physician, Division of Neurology and Senior Fellow, Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Carlyn Gentile Patterson, MD, PhD

Carlyn Gentile Patterson, MD, PhD

"My advice to women pursuing a STEM career, is find your passion, follow it, and do it for you. Be persistent. We all face failure and rejection at different points in our career, but loving the research questions you are pursuing can help carry you through those times. It also helps to be flexible and open-minded. Sometimes a project just does not work out, and we cannot always predict where passion will find us. An interesting opportunity may come along that you were not expecting. If it piques your interest, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and pursue it.

"Mentorship and collaboration are critical. No one does this on their own. Identify a group of mentors who meet your different needs and who have the bandwidth to invest in you. Be an active participant in your mentor/mentee relationships. Build collaborations, and be generous in those collaborations. The most fruitful collaborations I have had are with those who bring different backgrounds, strengths, and perspectives."

Kristina Busico Metzger, PhD: 'Keep exploring your interests.'

Kristina Busico Metzger, PhD

Kristina Busico Metzger, PhD

Statistical Scientist, Center for Injury Research and Prevention

"For young women considering a career in STEM, I have two pieces of advice. First, keep exploring your interests throughout your path in science and technology — you never know where they will lead. My initial interest in college was microbiology, then a course in infectious diseases introduced me to epidemiology. After enrolling in graduate school for epidemiology, I realized that I particularly enjoyed conducting analyses. And now I'm exploring more ways to communicate epidemiologic results to the public through effective data visualization.

"Second, surround yourself with coworkers who are smart and supportive. I've most enjoyed working with colleagues who are forward thinking and challenge themselves to grow and learn. The best teams to be a part of are those with members who collaborate well and support each other's professional and personal goals."

Rui Fu, PhD: 'Find your burning questions.'

Rui Fu, PhD

Rui Fu, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow, Violence Prevention Initiative

"Take some time to reflect on what sparked your curiosity and inherent interests. From doing this, find your burning questions, and then, go for it! These could be the questions that you always wished to answer but have not had the opportunity quite yet. However, these questions are the ones that put a fire in your belly and that compel you to take challenges and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles."

Whitney Guthrie, PhD: 'You deserve a seat at the table.'

Whitney Guthrie, PhD

Whitney Guthrie, PhD

Clinical Psychologist and Scientist, Center for Autism Research

"My advice to young women interested in STEM careers is to start practicing using your voice and taking your seat at the table. As a female scientist, you may find yourself in intimidating situations where you want to speak up but you're not sure you can or you should. As you progress throughout your career, take opportunities to practice speaking up, sharing an idea, or even challenging the status quo in the spaces you're in. It's good practice for the moments in your career where you will have to go out on a limb to suggest a bold idea, negotiate your salary, or advocate for yourself or others. You deserve a seat at the table, so practice taking it!"

Lisa Blaskey, PhD: 'Let your interests guide you.'

Lisa Blaskey, PhD

Lisa Blaskey, PhD

Neuropsychologist, Licensed Psychologist, Center for Autism Research

"I've always been interested in observing behavior and figuring out how the brain works — maybe as early as my tween years when I correctly diagnosed our family dog as having had a stroke. Despite those interests, I haven't always known exactly where I wanted to focus in my career or had a clear 'career plan' (and that might still be true even today!). However, I did know what interested me, and I continued to follow those interests and let them guide me. That's led to my role here at CHOP developing and evolving in both expected and unexpected ways.

"I've discovered that there are lots of different paths that can lead to a meaningful and successful career, and they don't always have to involve checking off traditional boxes. My advice to young women interested in STEM careers is to let their interests guide them and not to be defined by preconceived ideas about what they are 'supposed' to do to be successful. Having mentors who support those interests and who provide encouragement along the way is also hugely helpful."

Danielle Cullen, MD: 'Find what gets under your skin.'

Danielle Cullen, MD

Danielle Cullen, MD

Attending Physician, Emergency Medicine and Research Faculty, PolicyLab

"I would tell young women interested in STEM to follow their passion. Find what gets under your skin, what keeps you up at night, and pursue it. Defining a mission that you feel strongly about will help you persevere through the inevitable challenges, and it will help ignite those around you, creating a community of collaboration for impactful and far-reaching work."

Stay tuned for more advice from CHOP women in STEM in our final installment of this series.