Union Station seemed to be the center of civilization as crowds of people entered and exited the metro early on a Wednesday morning. I was among the crowd, breakfast in my hand and newfound friends by my side. We were leaving the station en route to one of this country’s most important facilities: the Capitol Building. As we left the station, I turned around to get a full view of the building behind me. The white marble architecture shown radiantly in the sun, the air was light and warm, and the sky was a promising blue. I inhaled deeply and thought to myself how lucky and grateful I am to be here, in the immense city of Washington D.C. The Women in STEM Policy weeklong seminar was filled with beautiful moments like these: moments I was able to share with incredible people, during an incredible time in my life.
The program completely surpassed my expectations. Every day I learned not only about myself, but also about the inner workings of policy as it applies to STEM. I was able to discover what I am truly interested in and what I want to do make a difference in this country. I also learned, and maybe more importantly, what I can do now as a woman, a scientist, and a leader. For me, this seminar came during the perfect time. I had recently graduated from college and found myself without a job and only a few options I considered with my degree background in biology and criminology. While in D.C., I learned that there are so many more things I could do in my current field and outside of it. I could code, write policy, be a researcher – I could do anything! I had the pleasure of meeting women from extremely diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. Many started in one field and found their passion in another. This gave me reassurance, especially as a recent grad, that I did not have to stay in the same field, and in fact, it was encouraged to explore different areas throughout your career and education.
During my time with PLEN, I also valued the amount of exposure to the intersection of science, technology and policy. These three fields are extremely intertwined and share commonalities that I did not explore prior to coming to D.C.. This was one of the most valuable lessons I learned during my time in D.C.: you cannot affect the realm of science without influencing technology and policy as well. At the end of the week, despite sore feet, I found myself equipped with new knowledge and confidence to return to post-graduate life and along with new friends, connections, and possibilities ready to embrace my journey ahead.
Hannah Gross recently graduated from Chatham University with a degree in Biology and Criminal Justice. She attended the 2017 Women in STEM Policy seminar with a scholarship sponsored by the Hopper Dean Foundation.