I will admit, I am not as involved in community service as I would like to be, I always seem to find an excuse. In the past, I have assisted with the undergraduate student ACS section at UAB, mentored both high school and undergraduate students, have ran a couple 5K races for charity, encouraged student community through planning events with the chemistry graduate students at UAB, and volunteered to help clean up and restore areas of Pleasant Grove, Al., after the tornadoes of 2011. However, I still have yet to find that one charity or organization that just calls to me. And it may just mean I have not looked hard enough, networked with the right people, or I just need to create the program or organization myself.
I know while at Birmingham-Southern College, I will become involved with the various student Chemistry and Science clubs, such as their local student ACS group. However, I would also like to implement a summer internship program between BSC and the local biotech community. This program will allow us to increase awareness of the growing biotech industry in Birmingham, Al. as well as give STEM majors at BSC a chance to receive valuable working experience and hands on training. I believe because of my involvement with Blondin Bioscience, and my connections with almost every biotech company in the area, I am uniquely positioned to develop this program! Almost every other discipline i know, such as Education or Business, there is some sort internship program already established and shown to be effective, but for some reason, this has not yet happened in Chemistry, at least not in our area. True, undergraduate research opportunities do exist for most STEM majors, but even at larger institutions, it is difficult to place each student into a research lab, and for those students who may not be interested in research as a long term career, a summer workplace internship program at a local lab would be immensely more beneficial.
Recently, a friend and mentor (Victor Brown of the BBA) approached me with an idea: to create a program designed to increase awareness and involvement for women and minorities in STEM disciplines within rural areas. There are currently a number of programs targeting local urban areas in our state, such as Birmingham and Montgomery, but there are few, if any, that I know of that target specifically suburban or rural areas outside of the cities in our state. From my own experience, I have seen that there are a number of women who enter as STEM majors at the undergraduate level (at Montevallo, I believe we may have even out numbered our male peers), but a number never finish, and few go on to pursue their Master's or a PhD. I believe one of the major obstacles that women face in upper level STEM disciplines is the ability to find that work/life balance as we age. To obtain a Masters or PhD in science would mean that our option to be a stay at home mom is pretty much out the window, and chances are more often than not that women may feel discouraged in continuing their education and believe that they would have to choose between a career in science or a family. However, I would like to be an example of how that is not true. I am a wife to a wonderfully supportive husband, I am a mom to a beautiful little boy (whom I had while in graduate school finishing up my dissertation), a soon to be Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Birmingham-Southern College, and the Director of Research for a start up company (Blondin Bioscience). I would love to be this example for future women in science, that (although its no walk in the park) you can follow your dream career in science and have a family (and be an ACTIVE member of your family).
If you would like to get involved or have suggestions of either my internship program or the STEM enrichment program, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In one of my online courses, we were discussing the online presence of professionals, specifically for instructors and professors. How you conduct yourself beyond the scope of online portfolios and blogs, such as in social media, can say a lot about you as a professional and a role model. One of my peers raised concerns about displaying family photos within social media, such as facebook, while job hunting, she was concerned that if potential employers knew she had a family with children, then she would be less desirable as a candidate. Now, although this may be been true (either with conscious and unconscious intentions for employers), I believe the gender gap between men and women in the work force is steadily closing if not already obsolete in many industries and disciplines. Take for instance the maternity leave, although a working mom does have to take a maternity leave of 6-13 weeks (in the U.S.) depending on company policy and if there were complications with delivery (there really is just no physical way around this) a number of companies are offsetting the maternity leave gender difference by allowing (and paying for) fathers to also take a paternity leave (usually not as long, but it is a start). Also, I believe companies and universities are starting to value and recognize the multifaceted abilities that a working mom brings to the table. Not only are we able to superbly balance home life (where we have to be tutors, chefs, maids, nurses, companions, therapists, accountants and sometimes vets), but we can bring our multitasking and creative problem solving skills to the workplace. I think hiding our family and our home life not only does an injustice to ourselves and our family but also doesn't give a potential employer the whole picture of you as a person. And ask yourself, if a company passed on your resume simply because your Facebook profile picture showcases the toothy grin of a spaghetti covered toddler... is that really a company in which you want to work at anyway?
As an educator, researcher, wife and mother, I am dedicated to developing and assessing innovations in chemistry education, medical diagnostics, and the biophysical characterization of non-helical DNA structures found in the non-coding regions of the genome.