As someone who has always been motivated by the “bigger picture,” I often found it difficult to visualize the role of STEM in the grand scheme of things. Attending this year’s “Women in STEM Policy seminar” has definitely changed the way I think about science. For one week, I had the opportunity of listening to amazing panelists and visiting sites that introduced me to real world applications of STEM within the public service arena. I am also extremely thankful for my PLEN experience because of the inclusion of environmental science within the realm of STEM policy. With the increasing problem of climate change and the rapid growth of technology, I had the opportunity to learn more about how some of my peers and I could use public policy to promote safer and healthier communities through technological advances.
The major thing that PLEN has taught me is the importance of being unapologetic in our personal pursuits. Coming into this seminar, I had my research interests predetermined and I wanted to know how best to pursue them. I felt uncomfortable with the idea of knowing what I wanted to pursue earlier on in my academic career. But being able to connect with determined young women encouraged me to own the characteristics and interests that defined me. I learned that as college students, we should not be afraid to pursue something that might seem unfamiliar to us—but we should be sure to always ask questions! My fellow PLEN participants showed me that if I have the ability to dream it, I can most definitely achieve it.
I also learned the importance of translating data. All the amazing women that we heard from at least had one thing in common—their ability to translate their research interests and findings into life changing policies. Within the realm of public policy, understanding the interpretation of the science within the communities we hope it will serve is just as important as understanding the science in itself. I personally learned that the presentation of data through clear and accurate models can bridge the divide in health education disparities. But also for scientists advocating on behalf of their work on Capitol Hill, finding ways to creatively present their data to congressmen is arguably the most important step for successful implementation.
I’m extremely grateful to have attended the Women in STEM Policy seminar because I was introduced into the various pathways of becoming a leader within the public policy realm. I learned about the flexibility that graduate degrees bring to your career and the importance of sustaining the idea of lifelong learning. As technology rises within our society, it’s good to know that my interests in data and the environment will allow me to gain exposure into different areas of research through public policy and craft my own unique career as my aspirations grow alongside me.
Oluwaseyi Olojo attended the 2016 Women in STEM Policy seminar as a sophomore at Barnard College.