10 Mar 2020

HudsonAlpha Foundation panel discussion celebrates women in STEM

On the brink of International Women’s Day, seven women working or retired from working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) presented at the Jackson Center for a “Women in STEM” discussion on February 27. The panel convened in front of an audience made up of high school and college students, professionals and retirees. The panelists presented models for success for women in fields that continue to have a significant gender gap in the United States. 

Jane Grimwood, PhD, HudsonAlpha faculty investigator and co-director of the Genome Sequencing Center, started the discussion sharing her personal story about getting into a STEM career and who influenced her along the way.

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to work in STEM,” shared Grimwood. “As a young girl, I was interested in animals and collecting things from outside.” 

With her interest in animals, Grimwood first thought to study zoology, but she was persuaded against it. So, she studied agricultural zoology and then eventually found her way to infectious disease and genetics through degrees and post-doctoral work. Later in the discussion, she encouraged the audience to find something they are passionate about and to not be afraid to try new things. 

Other panelists included Aruna Arora, MD, Director of the Neurodiagnostic Center at Neurology Consultants of Huntsville and Co-Medical Director of the Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic at Crestwood Medical Center; Juanita M. Christensen, PhD, Executive Director of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center at Redstone Arsenal; Janette Hostettler, Vice President of Production at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing; Jody Singer, Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; Irma L. Tuder, founder and former CEO of Analytical Services, Inc. (ASI); Peri Widener, Founder and CEO of GLoBIL Consulting Group and former Vice President and General Manager of Global Logistics at Boeing Company. Clarissa McClean, Director of Marketing and Communications at Randolph School and former WHNT news anchor in Huntsville moderated the discussion.

The panelists offered advice and encouragement to the audience, such as not being afraid to ask for help, the importance of being resilient while not giving up and the value of surrounding yourself with encouraging people and mentoring relationships.

“Hang in there,” offered Singer. “Stick with it. And, never stop growing. Always remember, a setback can be used as a comeback.”

During the Q&A segment, an audience member asked a question: besides school, what best prepared you for your career? Dr. Christensen noted the importance of resiliency, taking risks and learning from every mistake and success. Peri Widener added that having a background, hobbies or interests in arts, music or other areas has proven good for the people she has worked with over her career. “The people who had a broader lens brought very creative solutions to the table and were naturally more collaborative,” said Widener. “Bring your whole brain to the table.”

The panel was presented by the HudsonAlpha Foundation. The proceeds from the event will benefit HudsonAlpha’s educational outreach programs which inspire and train the next generation of STEM leaders. You can inspire and empower the next generation of STEM leaders. Please make a gift today to HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach program. Click here to view the photos. Click here to watch the video.