In Class News

April 27, 2018 at 1:05 pm

Women in Science Share Research Experiences, Career Insights

Drs. Sarah Hormozi, Tatiana Savin, Alycia Stigal, Janet Duerr, Jessica White and Gerardine Botte, panelists sitting at table in front of room..

From left, Drs. Sarah Hormozi, Tatiana Savin, Alycia Stigall, Janet Duerr, Jessica White and Gerardine Botte.
Photo credit: Brady Menegay

A panel of Ohio University researchers made their love for science, math and engineering clear as they shared their scientific expertise and career insights with a Women in Science class on April 12.

The class is made up of freshmen through seniors representing colleges across Ohio University. In groups composed of science, non-science and engineering majors, students conducted background research on each of the panelists and developed questions about their research, career trajectories, and mentoring activities as well as questions about how gender bias affects women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

The result was a rich, informed and well-timed discussion as students asked thoughtfully prepared questions and the experts spoke enthusiastically about their areas of study and shared personal stories and professional insights about issues affecting women in science.

Panelists—from the College of Arts & Sciences and the Russ College of Engineering—brought a range of experiences from diverse fields including Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Geology, and Mechanical and Electrochemical Engineering. Some of the researchers joined the OHIO community within the past two years, while others have been conducting research here for more than a decade.

Dr. Jessica White, an inorganic chemist, describes factors that affected her decision about which job offer to accept.

Dr. Jessica White, an inorganic chemist, describes factors that affected her decision about which job offer to accept. She joined OHIO in 2016.

The Panelists
Dr. Jessica White, Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, explained the advantages therapeutic metals could have over chemotherapy in cancer treatment.

Dr. Alycia Stigall, Professor of Geological Sciences, described how fossils, whether they are found in Antarctica or Ohio, help us understand evolutionary processes at different timescales.

Dr. Sarah Hormozi, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, answered students’ questions about how understanding fluid mechanics could be applied to strengthening armored vehicles and support a variety of industrial applications.

Dr. Tatiana Savin, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair of Mathematics, discussed the value of developing mathematical models to answer physical questions in materials science.

Dr. Gerardine Botte, Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, discussed her work developing clean energy systems as well as biomedical devices that can improve lives for people on dialysis.

Dr. Janet Duerr, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, explained how her studies of nematodes can help us understand very similar neuronal processes in humans.

Dr. Janet Duerr explains the research she conducted as a student, studying thermoregulation in ground squirrels. She is pictured seated with the panelists and gesturing as she talks.

Dr. Janet Duerr explains the research she conducted as a student, studying thermoregulation in ground squirrels. Duerr joined OHIO in 2002.

Regarding gender bias, the panelists noted that blatant discrimination against women is not acceptable in the United States today but that there are more subtle biases that can chip away at advancement and self-confidence. Heads nodded in agreement among the panelists as particular accounts were shared.

Students also were interested in how issues affected women in science in different parts of the world. Because of the diverse work and life experiences of the group, the students learned that in some countries women are not permitted to lead field research, while other countries have stronger math and science education than in the United States that can better prepare women to enter STEM fields. All of the researchers are interested in continued progress toward achieving equity in STEM.

Dr. Sarah Hormozi and Dr. Tatiana Savin listen as Dr. Alycia Stigall describes what is was like to lead a field expedition in China with international researchers.

Dr. Sarah Hormozi and Dr. Tatiana Savin listen as Dr. Alycia Stigall describes what is was like to lead a field expedition in China with international researchers.

The students

The students had been engaged in extensive reading, writing and class discussion about the importance of diversity, the challenges of implicit bias, the accomplishments of women in science history, and the contributions of modern scientists in research, technology, law, entrepreneurship and advocacy. With the end of the semester nearing, they appreciated hearing from members of their own community. Students spoke about panelists’ honesty, passion, enthusiasm and perseverance.

“I genuinely enjoyed this panel so much. Hearing about women scientists is one thing, but when you get to listen to successful women scientists who are right here on campus, it brings everything we have talked about into a new perspective,” said Mary Reichle, a junior majoring in Biological Sciences.

“The experience of hearing the panelists speak was powerful,” added Megan Carter, a senior majoring in Psychology. “It was inspiring to hear about the fascinating research that each presenter does, but also to hear about the way they navigate their way through often male-dominated fields and foster an environment in which discussions surrounding gender and racial inequality in participation in science can occur. Knowing that these prominent women leaders in science are utilizing their positions to help young women navigate these fields brings me great hope for a better future. I am so grateful to have heard all of the panelists speak and to learn about their nuanced perspectives within STEM and academia.”

“I really enjoyed hearing about all of the panelists’ experiences and what they are currently working on or researching. It was a very diverse group of women, each with a unique background and experience. It is always interesting to hear people talk about their experiences working and studying in other countries and comparing it to their own experiences in the United States. I also found it very interesting to hear that what we have been learning about gender bias actually exists and listening to how these very successful women were able to overcome these challenges,” said Nathen Drexler, a junior majoring in German.

Dr. Gerardine Botte, a University Distinguished Professor, discusses how her passion translated to leadership in engineering projects in Venezuela and the United States.

Dr. Gerardine Botte, a University Distinguished Professor, discusses how her passion translated to leadership in engineering projects in Venezuela and the United States.

“Being able to communicate with these amazing women made it seem more realistic and created more of a motivation within myself to be like these women. It was great to see that they overcame their obstacles and just kept pushing, even though things sometimes got difficult. These are the types of role models that we need in science,” said Alexis Lahrmer, a first-year student majoring in Electrical Engineering.

Dance major and senior Elizabeth Zech said, “My major is particularly far from the STEM field, but I found what they had to say related very closely to me, particularly how to get around the gender biases that some of the women encountered. Hearing that there is always a way to overcome any sort of struggles you might face was very refreshing. I also enjoyed hearing about how I could mentor young women.”

“I loved hearing these extremely successful women tell their own stories and talk about their own research, because it inspired me to work hard enough to someday be where they are. I thank them for being an inspiration and good role models to young women in all fields to be successful,” added Lilly Grogean, a sophomore majoring in Pre-professional Biology.

The panel discussion was videotaped by Max Look and JC Griffith so that students in an online course also can benefit from the insights of the panel.

Women in Science (PBIO 2170) is taught by Dr. Kim Thompson of Environmental & Plant Biology and is being offered as an online course for the first time in the first summer session this year.

Sarah McCorkle, a graduate assistant in the Office of Instructional Innovation coordinated the videotaping and editing for use in the online course. Look and Griffith also are contributing to editing.

All photos courtesy of Brady Menegay. Article contributed by Kim Thompson.

 

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