Meet a young scientist

It is the last week of Women's History Month, and this week we look to our future, to the girls and young women of science. Each day this week we will address a different topic related to girls in science.  Today on #meetascientist, we share the essays from two young women who reached out to 500WS early on. Both essays touch on the role they believe 500WS can play in supporting girls in science. 

 

First meet Madeleine Rackers, a sophomore at Western Washington University.

Comparing yourself to others will do nothing more than cause unnecessary stress.

I wasn’t born with a drive to pursue science. Much the opposite, in fact. I was the kid in high school who fell asleep in their science classes, and I’ve spent most of my life convinced that I would be a historian. During middle school and high school, I joked that hell would freeze over before I became a doctor. What sparked my interest in science, specifically, medicine, however, was my anatomy and physiology class in senior year of high school. Particularly, my anatomy and physiology teacher. A brilliant, physics-obsessed man who had an affinity for jumping on desks and playing traditional Peruvian flute music challenged both the belief I had held throughout high school that I was too dumb to do well in science and that a career in medicine was near impossible. I can definitively say that he is the reason I want to study medicine now.

With my recent interest in science in mind, 500 Women Scientists represents what I’ve come to learn: if you have an interest in something, do it. Especially in STEM careers, where female representation is limited, having visibility among female scientists encourages growing generations to pursue careers that in the past have had minimal female representation. For me, social media goes a long way towards increasing visibility; sharing news articles, reaching out to friends and family, and inviting others to events such as the Women’s March are a few examples of how I try and advocate for science on a daily basis. For the young girls who were born knowing they wanted to pursue science, and the young girls like me who will discover their passion soon, my best piece of advice would be not to compare yourselves to anyone else within your desired field. Just focus on what you want to do and how to achieve that goal, and work towards that. Comparing yourself to others will do nothing more than cause unnecessary stress.

 

Next, meet Claire Elise Borges, a 16 year old student at Benjamin Franklin HS in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Don’t be afraid to take action and make a difference.  
 Claire's excited about science, and she encourages other young girls to get in contact with her! 

Claire's excited about science, and she encourages other young girls to get in contact with her! 

Ever since my early years, I have been enamored by all things science.  I would have to say that my fascination began with fish.  When I was two years old and finally went to the bathroom on the “big girl potty,” my dad bought me a 10 gallon freshwater fish tank.  It was nothing special, but toddler-me absolutely adored it.  I got to pick my little tetras and algae eaters out at the pet shop and feed them every day.   My love for marine life did not stop there.  Being from the gulf coast, my family goes to Florida every year.  We like to stay on the beach with our boat and venture out to go fishing or tubing.  From the time I was able to swim, I would wake my dad up early in the morning to run down to the jetty to snorkel.  There, we would find all kinds of little sea creatures: tropical fish, shrimp, and cute little hermit crabs.

When I was 10, my family’s livelihood was nearly destroyed by the BP oil spill.  Living in New Orleans post-Katrina was stressful enough as it was, and the oil spill just piled on top of that fear and unrest.  I watched as my parents faced probably the most (not counting Katrina) stressful situation of their lives.  Nothing like this ever has to happen again if the oil and gas industry has more oversight and if our government supports the transition towards more renewable sources of energy.  

In 7th grade, I was convinced that I would become a veterinarian, a forensic anthropologist, and a marine biologist. That’s right. All three professions at the same time.  I distinctly recall looking up to the fictional Temperance Brennan from Bones. The fact that “Bones” was a woman and a cool forensic anthropologist that caught criminals was so inspiring for me.  It’s funny how little things like tv shows can be so impactful. Even if I no longer want to follow those career paths, I still wanted to be a scientist.

 Claire organized a meet-up of 500WS on international women's day!

Claire organized a meet-up of 500WS on international women's day!

All these little and big things have shaped my love for science, the environment, and others, so when I heard about 500 Women Scientists, I knew that I had to help out.  As we face more environmental disasters, global warming, and uncertainty in funding for scientific institutions, it is more important than ever for people to speak out and get involved so that we can make a difference. I just imagine all the little girls that look up to female scientists as I had looked up to a fictional character.  I want to help others realize their love for science and be empowered as I was fortunate enough to have been.  I also want to know that we are doing something to make a difference.  

What I am most excited for is getting more young girls involved.  While girls may not be scientists now, they are the future of science, the country, and the Earth.  To get started I want to reach out to other teen girls.  If you are a teen girl and want to get involved, please email me, I would love to talk (comment below)!  I want to hear your stories, too!  

As cliche as this may sound, we have a long way to go for women and science, but together, I know we can do it!  Don’t be afraid to take action and make a difference.  

 Claire presenting a poster at the International Stroke Conference. 

Claire presenting a poster at the International Stroke Conference. 


Madeleine Rackers, is an undergraduate at Western Washington University. Maddie, is a declared biology/anthropology major with an international studies minor. She is also on the pre-medical track, working to eventually attend medical school. Maddie is interested in reading about herbal-based pharmacy and climbing in her spare time, and her end goal after medical school is to practice medicine internationally.

 

Claire Borges is a 16 year old student at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She coordinates the 500WS New Orleans Pod and is part of the Young Women Scientists Strike Team.  Claire recently presented her research at the International Stroke Conference in Houston as first author and hopes to continue her research over the summer. She is dedicated to the encouragement of political activity by girls, as well as inclusion of young girls in STEM.