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Women in STEM

National Women’s History Month, held in the month of March, is to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society. At Wesley College, we are acknowledging successful Wesley alumnae in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers/majors.

 

Jasbir Deol ’15 | Wesley alumna and Ph.D. student (majoring in Pharmacy) at Temple University of Pharmacy

 

  • Please discuss your studies outside Wesley (graduate studies) and/or your current STEM position in the workforce.

I am currently attending Temple University School of Pharmacy in Philadelphia, PA in order to achieve my doctorate in pharmacy. This past summer, I completed an internship under Albertsons Companies to experience the role of pharmacy in a community and retail setting. Within this internship, I learned about management of different disease states and methods of counseling patients along with honing my presentation skills. This internship has led to a part-time position as a pharmacy intern at a local ACME pharmacy that provides real-life exposure to material taught in the classroom.

  • What has your experience as a woman in the STEM field (dominated by males) been like?

My experience as a woman in the STEM field has been satisfying because I have been able to accomplish important work with the support of my research team as well as support from my advisors and faculty. This research has led to multiple conference presentations and publications that would not be possible without the support from the men and women on the research team. Ironically, the research team developed and led by Dr. D’Souza at Wesley College was typically female driven along with a few males during my time at the institution which is a reversal of the usual male-dominated STEM field. This has proven that with the right network of support, it will become easier and more mainstream for women to enter the STEM field.

  • Do you have any advice for future women entering the STEM field?

If there is one thing I could advise future women entering or thinking about entering the STEM field on, it would be to never let other people’s perspectives stop you from accomplishing your goals. If you want to go to graduate school to further your education or apply for a position you are qualified for, march right on ahead. STEM is a male-dominated field right now but that just means that we have an opportunity here to make it an equal playing field. The first step on that path lies with women having the courage to pursue their dreams regardless of societal pressure.

  • How has Wesley helped you get you where you are today?

As a biological chemistry major at Wesley College, I began my college career with a course load that was heavy on the sciences including chemistry. As I showed promise in my chemistry courses, my advisor, Dr. D’Souza informed me about the directed research program that would build on my chemistry knowledge and contribute heavily to advancement to higher level chemistry courses. The chance to apply knowledge and principles taught in the classroom to real world application, as in the solvolytic and kinetic studies of various compounds was a privilege that many undergraduates are not fortunate to receive. This is an important privilege because Wesley College provides opportunities for undergraduate students that at larger institutions, would likely be given to graduate students. As the research has led to multiple conference presentations as well as publications, the directed research program at Wesley College has influenced my decision to pursue a blended future of science and healthcare as I attend pharmacy school at Temple University.

 

Megan Durrant ’16 | MLS(ASCP)CM | Wesley alumna and Medical Laboratory Scientist at New York Presbyterian Hospital

 

  • Please discuss your studies outside Wesley (graduate studies) and/or your current STEM position in the workforce.

I am a Medical Laboratory Scientist, working at New York Presbyterian Hospital at the Columbia campus in the Hematology core lab. My daily job duties entail quality control for the various hematology analyzers, being able to identify abnormal and normal cells found in peripheral blood and body fluids, preparing reagents, preforming manual test grading the degree of reaction. I perform analysis of various hematology tests in which I am reviewing or correcting results to ensure quality patient care. I am a vital part of the hospital team by working with doctors and nurses to ensure efficiency of patient results. I enjoy this career because it allows me to use science in a way that will be beneficial to the patients, which makes it a rewarding career for me.

  • What has your experience as a woman in the STEM field (dominated by males) been like?

My experience as a woman in the STEM field (dominated by males) has been wonderful so far. At my hospital there are a lot of women in my field so we take over! During my internship there were more men than women as well as in my rotations to different hospitals I did notice in certain areas of the lab, mainly chemistry, the men dominated. At that time I thought being a MLS was something that men did because you have to be able to know how to work the instruments we use. Once I actually began to work I noticed that you truly have to know science, it is a big part of this field because the second an analyzer goes down you have to perform every test manually, so you must be very knowledgeable in your area. Being in a field that is based on science and technology and being a woman makes me feel powerful. I know my science and yes I can troubleshoot, perform quality control, add reagents, yes I can open the machine to find out what is wrong and fix it, or do anything else that the analyzer I may be using at the time needs. In this field anything a man can do we can do and that is why I believe more women are becoming Medical Laboratory Scientists.

  • Do you have any advice for future women entering the STEM field?

My advice for future women entering the STEM field is to know what you want and stand by what you KNOW you want to do. Have an open mind, seek advice when you need it and listen when it is given. Never give up or feel that you are not capable of achieving something, and don’t be afraid to speak up! People may say that you must have a certain attitude to get to the top because you’re a woman, but hard work, assertiveness, and being open to new opportunities never goes unnoticed.

  • How has Wesley helped you get you where you are today?

Wesley has helped me get to where I am today due to the professors. Many of my professors wanted me to be the very best that they knew I could be which at the time I was unaware of. During my time at Wesley I was pushed to my full potential. I was given so many opportunities; the most important was being a part of the directed research team, which has helped me to be where I am today. I felt like every time I succeeded at something everyone in the STEM department was genuinely excited for me. They knew all along I had this in me I just needed that push. When I came back in May 2016 for graduation I received a warm welcome and my professors were all happy to finally see me walk across the stage. That day made me realize that the STEM department is a community and they want every one of us to thrive. When I passed my ASCP exam in order to obtain my title (MLS) I felt that everything I have ever learned or done at Wesley has prepared me for where I am at this moment. I am thankful every day.

 

Annie Jump Cannon 1880 | Wesley alumna and an American Astronomer

 

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941), a prominent astronomer who pioneered stellar classification, observed her first stars from the roof of the Annie Jump Cannon house, today known as the “Cannon House,” the Wesley College President’s home.

Cannon, who was legally deaf, graduated valedictorian from Wilmington Conference Academy, now Wesley College, in 1880. She continued her studies at Wellesley College and Radcliffe Women’s College at Harvard.

While working at the Harvard Observatory, Cannon developed the Star Spectra system, classifying over 300,000 stars based on color and temperature. She was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Oxford University and her long career paved the way for women in science.

Click here to learn more about Annie Jump Cannon. 

 

Sophia “Sia” Willis Khalfani ’97 | Wesley alumna and a Network Security Identity and Access Management Engineer (NS-IAM-Engineer)

 

By Theresa Gawlas Medoff

Sophia “Sia” Willis Khalfani ’97 wanted to be a doctor. At least that’s what she thought – until she discovered her love of technology while working as an administrator for a multi-physician practice.TODAY, KHALFANI is a Network Security Identity and Access Management Engineer (NS IAM Engineer) at a large telecommunications corporation, where she works to ensure that her company’s networks are protected from viruses and hacking. She is challenged regularly to solve complex problems and to stay current with innovations in technology.

Cybersecurity can be a high-stakes, high-pressure job. “We are in an age when data is premium,” she says. “It’s vital to secure that data, as well as the hardware and software. Losing data is a real liability for a company, which is why it’s so important to protect it.”

Actually, medicine and technology have a lot in common, Khalfani says. “Doctors diagnose symptoms and treat patients, while in the computer field you are diagnosing computer problems and treating those issues. Analytically, it’s the same process.”

And just as a doctor can feel good about helping a patient, Khalfani is re- warded by helping her colleagues. “In this field, people only come to you when something is wrong, and they’re counting on you to fix it,” she says. “It’s a great feeling to go to work and get high-fived because you made it possible for someone to do what they needed to do.”

As a woman of color, Khalfani is a rarity in the male-dominated technology field, and she’d like to see that change. To that end, she produced a program that aired on public access radio in New York City until May of this year called “Bits, Bytes, Nibbles and Supercomputers,” featuring women working in technology. And as she has done for years, she continues to volunteer in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs that reach out to girls and children in underserved communities. “We need more women and more people of color in technology,” Khalfani says. “It’s important to bridge the digital divide.”

Full article is featured on the Wesley Magazine | Winter Edition 2017

 

Riza Bautista ’16 | Wesley alumna and Ph.D. student at the University of Delaware for Bioinformatics and Systems Biology

 

  • Please discuss your studies outside Wesley (graduate studies) and/or your current STEM position in the workforce.

I am currently in the PhD program at the University of Delaware for Bioinformatics and Systems Biology.  For my research, I am working with Dr. Cathy Wu and Dr. Adam Davey to investigate the role of maternal age in modifying genetic and environmental contributions to offspring risk of obesity.  Also, I have recently been selected for the NSF-IGERT Program (http://sbe2igert.dbi.udel.edu/index.php) at UD; this requires me to do additional work in the Engineered Environments (EE) lab, an industry internship and be part of STEM Outreach Programs to middle schools in Sussex County.

  • What has your experience as a woman in the STEM field (dominated by males) been like?

Since more and more women are making headway into this area it is a great time to be a woman in the STEM field.  I have had only positive experiences in the STEM field thus far.  The head of my program, Dr. Wu, is an exceptional role model; she is who I model my career after.  Everyone has been encouraging with the work that I am doing and hope to continue to do.  I feel that I have a long way to go before I make my impact on the STEM field.

  • Do you have any advice for future women entering the STEM field?

Yes, definitely do not be afraid.  Women are capable of anything that they put their mind to.   Be open to opportunities that might not always seem like something you are interested in, it could lead to new and exciting possibilities for you.  Had I been hesitant to do research, I would find myself in a different career path.

  • How has Wesley helped you get you where you are today?

I have to give credit where its due, and Wesley was my stepping-stone to get where I am today.  The undergraduate research opportunities that I was able to take advantage of prompted my passion for research and what guided me towards graduate school.