STRIDE Empowers High School Girls to Imagine a Future in Science
When Alison Silvestri, a Stony Brook University alumna and science teacher at Hicksville High School reached out to STRIDE with hopes of exposing her female students to science and engineering, Dr. Jennifer McCauley sprang into action, reaching out to contacts and colleagues to create a personalized itinerary for her group of students comprised solely by women scientists. One of the fundamental goals of the STRIDE program is to increase the diversity and inclusivity of STEM for women and underrepresented groups, so this was an opportunity to expose these young women to various areas of science and to dispel the notion that women cannot succeed in science.
On Thursday, December 6, the Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS) hosted 32 high school girls through a very special day of science talks, a panel event, as well as a hands-on engineering project. When the girls arrived on campus with their teacher, they were escorted into the Institute, where they were each presented with red Stony Brook University backpacks, full of information for these prospective future Seawolves!
Jacqueline Gatta , the program coordinator for Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Honors, began by giving the girls a presentation about the program, various STEM majors within WISE, and information about applying to the Honors program.The girls had the opportunity to listen to three science talks given by STRIDE Fellows; Lisa Herbert, Tara Dolan, and Kylie Langlois. Though the three doctoral candidates study marine science, their research areas are very different. Lisa Herbert gave an inspirational talk about her own personal journey with science—though she had once struggled with chemistry, she has now gone on to become a biogeochemist who studies the trace metals within the ocean floors of the high arctic, the result of melting glaciers. Tara Dolan studies fisheries ecology and the management of winter flounder on Long Island. She spoke to the girls about her research as well as her own educational experiences between college and graduate school, encouraging the girls to seek out opportunities to obtain experience in science—many of which are paid positions. Kylie Langlois presented her research on solving Long Island’s nitrogen problem with microbes, a project she has been working on with the Center for Clean Water Technology. Because of their involvement with STRIDE, the fellows have received extensive training in science communication, which gave them the ability to give educational talks on a level that the high school girls could both understand and be engaged in. The high school students were interested and asked many thoughtful questions after each presentation.
After the presentations, there was a panel Q & A with Heather Lynch, PhD (Ecology & Evolution); Christine O’Connell, PhD (Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science); Melanie Chiu, PhD (Chemistry), Jennifer McCauley, PhD (STRIDE); and graduate students, Lisa Herbert, Tara Dolan, Kylie Langlois, Julia Stepanuk, and Zahraa Krayem. Following the panel, Zahraa Krayem, who is a STRIDE fellow and PhD student from Electrical and Computer Engineering escorted the girls to the Light Engineering building for a hands-on activity in the brand-new Engineering Teaching Laboratory. Once in the lab, the girls equipped themselves with safety goggles and got to work on building a working nightlight, which they got to decorate and take home with them.
The day concluded with a Research Café hosted by the Center for Inclusive Education, where they observed a talk on Parkinson’s Disease research, presented by Jinelle Wint, a PhD candidate from the department of Molecular & Cellular Biology. As the girls walked towards the school bus waiting to take them back to Hicksville High School, the conversations among the girls were animated with chatter of the future and some envisioning themselves on this very campus in the future as college students. Exposing young women and underrepresented students to science is so important and is a mission that STRIDE has taken on in an effort to make STEM fields more diverse and equitable for all. We look forward to future partnerships like this one with other schools throughout Long Island.