A few of HudsonAlpha’s great minds took some extra time out of their day to empower young women at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) program, Tech Trek. In partnership with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the weeklong STEM camp features intensive hands-on experiments and activities to promote interest in the STEM fields among rising eighth-grade girls.

Liz Worthey, PhD and a number of other the female members of the Software Development and Informatics team lead the workshop “Cracking the Genomic Code of Rare Disease.” Worthey introduced the workshop by discussing how this group of software developers and genomic analysts uses software and genomics to tailor health care to individual patients. She also allowed the girls to explore her genome using the Codicem software, giving them a hands-on experience walking through analysis of a whole genome.  

“The real goal was to expose the students to genomics, informatics, and software development, to show that they can do this type of job if they are interested because we are just like them, and to get them thinking about genomics and how it will impact their life and the lives of their friends and families,” said Worthey.

In addition, participants had the chance to hear from HudsonAlpha’s Joy Agee, PhD; Candice Finnila, PhD; Dasi Price, Ed.S.; and Brittany Lasseigne, PhD during a session called Professional Women’s Night, sponsored by network and communications company ADTRAN.

Agee was the moderator for the evening and shared what inspired her to pursue a career in science.

I became inspired to work in STEM because I realized once I entered graduate school there was very little diversity in STEM fields,” said Agee. “There were few people of color and very few women in my classes, labs, as well as my instructors. There are so many career opportunities in STEM that many students, particularly, from underprivileged backgrounds do not have exposure to these opportunities.”

Price, Lasseigne and Finnila had the opportunity to speak to the 65 campers and camp counselors, speed-dating style.

“I was hoping by talking with me, the ladies would learn that you don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up,” said Lasseigne. “At some point in my life I wanted to be a librarian, astronaut, novelist or medical doctor. I didn’t realize I wanted to be a scientist until graduate school.” 

Price emphasized the importance of perseverance and giving back.

“Even if you walk alone, keep walking! Find mentors for every area of your life and stay connected to them. Once you accomplish your dreams, give back. Success is best demonstrated through building a legacy and pouring into others”.

Finnila said, “I encourage them to learn as much as they can about available options and decide what they are most interested in and work hard to create a niche for themselves in their area of interest. Establishing a network of other professionals would also be helpful as they move forward in the field.”

To learn more about Tech Trek, visit http://techtrek-al.aauw.net/.


Author: BioTrain intern Shonice Pitts

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