Riley Lovejoy, a Ph.D. student in Biology, founded Delta TREE. This organization helps change misconceptions about women in STEM through talk, research experience, and education. Right now Riley is working with young women at Bessemer Academy, but hopes to expand to other high schools.
As a high school student Riley met women medical doctors and pharmacists and knew that those professions were somewhat attainable for women. However, she never had the privilege to meet any women who were biologists, chemists, or engineers. Like many others, despite supportive teachers and family members, she never really considered those fields. A lot of young women are encouraged by TV shows like Bones or NCIS. However, they don’t necessarily paint the picture of the “normal” woman in science. It is important for young women to personally meet women who are scientists in order to help break down the stereotypes and misconceptions they may hold about them. This is a goal of Delta TREE. When you haven’t ever actually seen and spoken with a woman in the profession you’re interested in, you likely won’t be confident enough to pursue a future in that profession. For Riley, a particularly important aspect of her training has been a supportive and invested undergraduate advisor and department.
During the fall, young women participating in Delta TREE had the opportunity to meet female graduate students and listen to them speak about their interests and research. This semester, the young women are learning how to conduct scientific demonstrations that will be presented to elementary and middle school classes. This will help them gain confidence presenting, and also acquaint younger students with the idea of women leaders in science. This pattern seems to be working out really well so far, and the plan is to continue using this format in future years. An upcoming field trip will provide experience in basic invertebrate sampling techniques and teach the girls about stream ecology, fish, and tree measurements/assessments.
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