Growing up, my first STEM role model was my aunt who is an electrical engineer. She always encouraged me to embrace my curiosity for science and learn more about STEM. Later in middle school I participated in a computer camp and in my senior year of high school I joined the National Society of Black Engineers. The more I got involved in STEM activities, the more I wanted to make an impact on science and society.
Fast forward, earlier this year I attended the WE Local Baltimore Event. I participated in the SWENext Design Lab as a SWE Speed Networking Mentor. Mentoring is the core of my career vision and mentors make a difference in a budding scientist’s career. As a mentor, this was a great opportunity to give back to my local community and help the next generation of STEM-ers.
This was a highly interactive event and the audience was eager to ask me questions. Most of the questions were standard: Why did I become a scientist? What is a typical day in a research laboratory? How did I pick my major? What is the number one thing I learned as a scientist?
However, I was taken aback with a few deep rooted questions: How did I feel about being the “only one” or just a small part of the few African-Americans and women who are in STEM courses? How did I stay confident when people say STEM is for boys? Did my natural hair or skin color affect me from getting jobs or opportunities?
I answered these questions honestly and encouraged the students to continue to push forward to achieve their goals. I encouraged them to join organizations like SWE and NSBE so they can form a strong support system. The main takeaway was to find STEM mentors every step of the way as learn from there experience and knowledge.
Mentoring made a big impact in my career and programs organized by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and The Pennsylvania State University’s Multicultural Engineering Program made STEM opportunities and resources accessible. My mentors, participation in programs, and involvement in STEM organizations helped me explore a number of STEM possibilities. I gained knowledge to become a toxicologist, science writer, and STEM advocate. I want students to know STEM makes a difference. I am dedicated to sharing resources and mentoring the next generation of scientists. This was one of the main reasons I created, Mademoiselle Scientist, my digital resource platform for scientists and students. Mentoring makes a difference and together we can mentor the next generation to showcase STEM diversity.
About the Author:
Martina G. Efeyini is a toxicologist, science writer and STEM Advocate. She is committed to promoting diversity in STEM, mentoring and sharing resources for the next generation of STEM-ers. She is creator and founder of Mademoiselle Scientist, an online resource for students and people in the STEM field. She works with organizations/groups that support broadening participation in STEM.