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STEM field trailblazers light the way for future female scientists

10-17 Women in STEM (Kelly Watkins) (5 of 6).JPG
Women in Stem celebrates the fufillment of dreams in and out of the workplace. (Kelly Watkins / The Signpost)

Eight guest speakers, deans, professors and undergraduates shared their journeys as women in STEM fields in an effort to inspire women at Weber State University to pursue science careers at a casual
speaking event.

The second annual event, held at Tracy Hall Science Center on Oct. 17, was a collaboration between the Weber State University College of Science and the College of Engineering, Applied Science and

College of Science Dean Dr. Andrea Easter-Pilcher, whose professional and research interests have included student retention among women and underrepresented minorities in the sciences, spoke of her experience in
the field.

“There have been major obstacles that have been put in my way because I was a female scientist,” Easter-Pilcher said. “You can imagine telling someone that you are a female who snare-traps grizzly bears, they just don’t believe that’s something
women do. But I’m here to tell you that if that is your dream, you can do it.”

Remembering projects of which she was the principal investigator in Russia, Easter-Pilcher described how often Russian officials would defer to her male field assistant because they couldn’t believe she could have been in charge.

Easter-Pilcher’s passion for representing women and minorities in the sciences began when she started teaching at Montana State University. She said there were no mentors for people like her during her time in college.

“I looked up from afar to Jane Goodall — that was my mentor,” Easter-Pilcher said.

She believes WSU has the opportunity to tell their stories through the Women in STEM event and show students how “incredible, approachable and wonderful the faculty here are.”

Isabel Gonzales, an undergraduate guest speaker at the event who hopes to graduate in Spring 2019 with a bachelor’s in chemistry, shared her story as a woman in STEM at
Weber State.

Gonzales said glycolysis, a daily chemical reaction in the body that breaks down glucose for energy and basic functions, was the first thing about science that
amazed her.

“Something so simple used everyday opened my eyes to all the little things we can’t see,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales, the oldest child in her family and a first-generation college student, was born and raised in Ogden. She first became interested in chemistry thanks to a teacher at Saint Joseph’s Catholic High School.

For Gonzales, Mr. Yule’s passion for his subject inspired her to take her first steps onto a college campus, where no one in her family had gone before.

Gonzales faced challenges accepting and learning from her failures, particularly when she failed her organic chemistry

“It was so hard for me to accept that because I’d never experienced it, but it was the best learning experience for me,” Gonzales said. “I learned that had to happen in order for me to become a better student and grow as a person.”

Natalie Bowen, a student in attendance who heard about the event from one of her professors, enjoyed the event and said its casual setting allowed her to visit even when she didn’t have the time to stay the whole event.

Bowen said with Weber State’s student population, plannings events like this can run the risk of either holding it when no one’s around or when everyone’s too busy to stop by.

“If this was a formal deal where I had to be committed to coming and staying for two hours, I definitely couldn’t have made it work,” said Bowen.

Bowen said she was bolstered by the experience. She is pursuing a degree in chemistry.

“When Dean Easter-Pilcher said her closest female mentor was Jane Goodall, it made me even more grateful for the incredible women who have pioneered their way through the STEM field to get where they are today,” said Bowen.


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