Yo Pearls of Wisdom for High School

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Shine your boots if you dare go toe-to-toe with this group of impressive young women! This past Tuesday, the Museum was honored to host a morning of tours and talks with the twenty fabulous participants of the Women's Foundation of Colorado 2013 Girls' Leadership Council, and they wowed both me and my co-host Dr. Bridget Coughlin, Adjunct Curator in Health Sciences and Vice President for Strategic partnerships and Programs at the Museum.

Discussions ranged from the heavy science behind DNA scrambling in trypanosomes (reflecting Dr. Coughlin’s previous scientific work in Chagas Disease), to what it means to be a woman in science, sometimes the only woman at the table, and how being a woman sometimes matters and sometimes doesn't affect our work. From this session we had a follow up question from one of the participants, and wanted to repost it here, as well as our answers, as it could be helpful to many more students out there.


Brigitte writes:

I just wanted to thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to us about your experiences and about the museum. It was really inspiring to see two wonderful women who work in a male dominated field and to be so accomplished. One of the things Bridget asked was, "When have you been in a situation where you were the only girl?" I just wanted to share that just two weeks ago, I attended a "Power Camp" about Electrical Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for a week, where I was the only girl. In a way it made me more motivated to work harder and to build the best robot and to program it to do the best things and to be so perfect at soldering.


    On another note, I wanted to asked you about your career and how you got into it when you were young. Mainly I wanted to asked you what was your favorite science and how did you know you wanted to pursue it? I am on the cusp right now because for the longest time I wanted to be a Radiologist. I still do, but now that I am growing up and taking higher science and math courses, I realize that I enjoy Chemistry more than Biology. What would be your advice for me since for my junior year I am taking HL Bio, HL Chem, AP Calc, Math Studies, and Practical Science and Engineering for the entire year?


    Once again thank you for the behind the scenes tour, especially since I love the Expedition Health exhibit because it is so interactive!


Dr. Coughlin’s response for Brigitte:

Your short question is actually a really hard one.  Try this exercise, make a few lists:

  • First list title “What you are good at”.
  • Second list label “What you like to do.”

If the two lists are the same then you are not pushing yourself enough.  Don’t just like the stuff you are good at!  Make sure you take classes in stuff you are good at and stuff you like to do.  AND importantly then add a class or extracurricular activity that you think you might not immediately be awesome at.  That’s how you grow and stretch yourself to learn new things and expose yourself to activities that will open up career horizons. I took Spanish far too long in college-it was not my major, I was not that great at it (my lowest grades and it hurt my GPA!) , but in the end it kept my horizon’s broad and surprisingly I used a lot of it when I went into field research for parasite work.


Dr. Garneau's response for Brigitte:

I don’t think you have to decide right here, right now exactly what your career will be. In college you will have to take the same general education requirements for science as almost all other students and you may find that when in the undergraduate setting (very different from high school) you develop more of an interest in one area over another. I can’t speak to high school classes you should or shouldn't take, but I recommend that you take what you feel will open more doors to ensure you are prepared no matter what road you ultimately pursue. And I whole heartedly agree with Dr. Coughlin, go beyond what you think you should do, and try your hand at other areas! You never know when the opporuntity might arise to network or particpate in something because of the new things you try, and more importantly, the people you will meet when you step outside your comfort zone!


This gangly kid (as a sophomore in high school) took and loved not only the science, but a variety of writing and English courses,  art classes, played soccer, basketball and ran track..... in the end I would never in a million years dreamed I would be where I am, and if I had planned it all out the way I thought it should go, the likelyhood of me taking the chances I did that led me to today might never have happened.






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