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April 2013

PNNL Researchers Discuss Increasing Interest in Scientific Fields via Women @ Energy

Our scientists provide advice to help the next generation of researchers soar on the Women @ Diversity website.

While women make up slightly more than half of the US workforce and half of the college-educated workforce, they are underrepresented in the nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, jobs. To encourage more women to consider STEM careers, the Department of Energy built a webpage with articles about women who work in STEM areas for the Department, including the national labs. As they state on their page: "We hope that the stories of these, and many more, women in STEM can inspire others as they think about the future. Only 24% of the STEM workforce is female, an alarming gap as over 51% of the workforce overall is female."

Several outstanding scientists from PNNL are featured. The articles include highlights of their careers to date, why they joined the field, what they enjoy doing in their spare time, and how to bring more people to STEM subjects. Here's a few of their suggestions:

"For students beginning their exposure to science and engineering, it is critical to provide more support and opportunities to engage with role models at the middle school level. It can make a big difference to teach science and engineering with hands-on, practical experiences that bring out the fun in our work." - Charlette Geffen

"It is so important to follow your heart and your brain. If you've ever looked up at the sky and wondered why it's blue, why the grass is green, then you are well on your way!" - Kathy Hibbard

"Strive to get any work experience that you can before looking for a long-term job. In high school holding any job will help demonstrate that you have a strong work ethic and provide you skills in communication and getting along with others. " - Margie Romine

"People need to be able to envision themselves in an environment where they believe they can succeed and enjoy what they do. Exposing underrepresented groups to a variety of mentors in different fields and work environments would enable individuals to determine what interests them." - Karen Schuchardt

"Build a solid background in mathematics first. Then, just follow your heart and use your imagination." -Xin Sun

"If you only study one discipline, especially in biology, you will lack the vision to relate across the science domains. Big data and biotechnology are growing so much that multidisciplinary training is a must. " - Katrina Waters

"We need to ‘de-mystify' STEM subjects, and stop pretending that it's hard to be a scientist or an engineer.  It isn't hard-it's fun!  But like many other fun things being really, really good at science and math requires practice." - Karin Rodland

"The opportunity to concentrate and experience the simple joy of scientific problem solving can help develop their interests and build confidence. Both schools and families have important roles to play in this effort." - Ruby Leung

"It is difficult being a scientist without having both a passion and a curiosity for science. However, this is not enough. The ability to see the bigger picture, persistence, networking, and communication skills are all equally important." - Julia Laskin

"Mentoring is important. I volunteer in several capacities to help underrepresented high school students conduct environmental science projects through a program called EnvironMentors. It is wonderful to see the students' accomplishments. It can be very empowering to learn from someone else in a nurturing setting, where it is okay to ask questions and observe new things." -Meredydd Evans

"It is essential to have an open mind and think independently. Find problems that interest you and that you feel you have the potential to make a unique and independent contribution." - Alla Zelenyuk

"Follow your interests. It is important to find something you are passionate about rather than to follow every fashionable topic." - Kerstin Kleese van Dam

Keep an eye on for more entries from PNNL, including Marianne Sowa.

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