W&J Women in STEM

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers were historically considered a boys’ club. Today, an increasing number of women are making an impact in the field – including on campus. W&J’s Women in STEM online interview series put our professors in the spotlight.

With the support of the outstanding faculty, W&J students also are seeing success in the STEM fields, pursuing research opportunities, presenting at national conferences, earning fellowships, and going on to Ph.D. studies.

HOW DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED/ INVOLVED IN YOUR FIELD OF STUDY?

Associate Professor of Mathematics Faun Doherty, Ph.D.: My parents are both teachers of mathematics. They were able to teach in different countries as I was growing up since math is pretty much a universal language. I wanted to do the same. I was only planning to get a master’s degree, and pursue a doctorate in something else but I did well, and enjoyed it.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Deborah Polvani, Ph.D.: My tenth grade chemistry teacher, Mrs. Russell, first sparked my interest in chemistry. She was a fantastic teacher who made chemistry fun and exciting. Ever since I had this class in high school, I knew I wanted to pursue chemistry in college and as a career. She prepared me very well for my college major in chemistry.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO TEACH OTHERS ABOUT YOUR FIELD?

Associate Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Logan Bayline, Ph.D.: I enjoy the challenge of chemistry. It always felt like a puzzle to me, one that I could solve by mastering the rules and applying logic. I liked that I could reason out “an answer.” I also love all the different aspects of teaching chemistry—from lecturing, to lab work, to mentoring students one-on-one in independent research. The job never gets old. I enjoy seeing the moment when a student solves a problem on their own or collects beautiful data and realizes, “Yes, I, too, can do this.”

Professor of Mathematics Jennifer Kline, Ph.D.: My dad was a college professor so I knew what that life was like, and then as an undergraduate I had too many teachers who weren’t able to communicate mathematics in a way I thought was effective. I learned how to teach myself, and I remember thinking about my (all male) teachers, “Guys, this isn’t that hard. Can’t you see there’s a better way to explain this?” So I knew teaching math at a college level was something where I could make an impact.

Associate Professor of Biology Kelly Weixel, Ph.D.: I love science. I want others to be fascinated by the world around them and find a way to ask questions about it. Teaching gives me the opportunity to inspire others to be careful observers. Even if they do not become scientists themselves, I want them to value scientific exploration.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN INTERESTED IN STEM STUDIES?

Professor of Biology Alice Grier Lee, Ph.D.: Expect to work hard, be who you are, be sure to love what you do or find something else, and infuse passion into your work every day. Keep being surprised and delighted by learning and discovery.

Professor of Computing and Information Studies Amanda Holland-Minkley, Ph.D.: Don’t be afraid to try things out and fail a little bit. If you are only taking on challenges you know you can master, you’re holding yourself back. Ultimately, the things you can do are more important than the grades you earn.