So… it took me awhile to figure this out, but I really… and I mean REALLY love talking about my experience as a woman in the STEM Field.
Growing up, I didn’t really have any “favorite subjects,” I loved EVERYTHING I learned about in school. Whatever subjects my classmates hated, I actually loved and whatever subjects my classmates loved, well… I loved too. This whole idea of my “favorite subjects” didn’t get down to the nitty gritty until I reached high school. Of course, nothing much changed about my interests in school, I still naturally loved all of my classes, but I had to really consider what I actually wanted to make of myself.
I’d spent several long years telling everyone who asked me that I wanted to be a gynecologist when I grew up. Now, at this point in time… I’d also grown to know that I actually didn’t like taking care of people in the way that doctors do and was searching for a new answer to the dreaded questions about my future career.
It must have been on the morning school announcements sometime in the beginning of my Junior year where I’d heard applications were open for the 3M STEP Program while sitting in class that a light bulb went off in my brain that screamed I HAD to apply. I didn’t know quite what that meant for me, but I did it anyway. To my surprise, I was accepted. Thinking that I could actually step foot in the building/headquarters that I rode by in car rides growing up and admiring the “glass building” that loomed over the highway was absurd to me. I remember my initial feeling walking into the “glass building.” I was so psyched to be there and all of the other students, like myself, were grinning like never before and trying to give our best impressions to the many people we walked past.
**Left to right: Olester Benson-3M Corporate Scientist, my mentor; 3M STEP Sponsor, and Valerie Hau-3M STEP co-chair; Gratias Sessou-my 3M buddy for life; Gratias x2, Jose Ortiz, and our awesome 3M pinata.
I can’t give away too much information about my experience at 3M, but I will explain 3M STEP. The acronym stands for 3M Science Training Encouragement Program. It gives high school junior and senior students, located in the Saint Paul Public School District, the opportunity to gain paid internship experience working alongside actual 3M scientists in the lab. During the school year, they attend seminars on the 3M campus a few times a week during their school day to gain insight from its employees on the different areas of 3M and science overall. Then, during the summer, they work full time in the lab with the guidance of a 3M scientist or engineer.
More information on 3M STEP can be found in this link: https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/gives-us/education/3m-step/
**Also, there’s this awesome video I was featured in on this site.
I was also honored to be part of 3M STEP, yet again, in my senior year of high school. It’s been said that the second time around is a lot trickier and more selective, but I’m honestly so thankful I was given the chance to participate again.
Summer Youth Programs: Women in Engineering at Michigan Technological University
The summer after my junior year of high school, I had the awesome chance to be part of the Summer Youth Programs: Women in Engineering week long summer camp at Michigan Technological University.
A few other girls from my school, including myself, were on a scholarship given by 3M to attend. (Thank-goodness for the generosity of 3M for allowing me to do so many things with my career!!!!!!)
My time at this summer camp, has since become a blur, but there are some very memorable happenings I can recall.
- My roommate was one of the few people who came from an entirely different country! She flew all the way in from Bahrain and I was astounded to learn a lot from her and their education system and her experiences. I still have the coin she gave me as a keepsake.
- We did a lot of fun activities outside of engineering in the too small of a town, Houghton, Michigan. My most favorite was hiking and releasing paper lanterns.
- I explored small areas of engineering such as mechanical and civil engineering. My group mates and I created a go kart named Flying Fish and competed other designs going down a ramp. In another, we designed a bridge constructed from manila file folders and placed textbooks on top as it shook on a shaking machine to test the durability from construction.
My take away from my short time at the Summer Youth Programs: Women in Engineering camp would be that it definitely opened my eyes to the other areas of STEM. I’m more than thankful to have gone.
3M Technical Aide:
Near the end of my internship and the approach of my first legitimate semester of college, I was strongly encouraged by my supervisor as well as the co-chair of 3M STEP to apply as a technical aide.
I was familiar with the position because I worked alongside a technical aide, Anna. I learned a lot from Anna’s guidance besides the everyday tasks in the lab. Anna gave me a lot of advice when it came to college and things to expect. (I also learned how to do some stuff left handed, because she was a lefty, and I was a righty.) I’m honestly so grateful to have spent TWO summers with Anna because she’s such a great person and I look up to her a lot.
Anyway, in the weeks before the Fall semester, I had quit my job at Best Buy and was determined to be contained on the campus of the University of Minnesota. I searched high and low for a typical college student job but couldn’t imagine myself as a barista or waitress, or working a campus job. You know what I mean. I was so bummed out at my options because I had just spent the last two summers working in a lab and I couldn’t even fathom working anywhere better than that! Then I remembered 3M was always an option for me because I had the minimum college experience (from PSEO), the GPA, and the lab experience.
Wow, like a light bulb had gone off in my head a second time… I applied to every single technical aide posting listed on the 3M careers website. Thank goodness someone finally took a look at my application and reached out to me.
I’ve now been working at 3M as a technical aide for 1 year and 4 months. I’ll always remember because it’s the day after “On October 3rd, he asked me what day it was… ‘It’s October 3rd.'” (Mean Girls).
I’d have to say, working in a lab is actually quite isolating. Often times, I didn’t really talk with others because I didn’t know how. But, one year later, I’m honestly really trying to. Everyone in the lab is so much fun to be around.
During the school year, I only work between 8 to 15 hours a week since my primary focus should be school. My days often feel rushed as I am still a full time student. I will typically go to school, and work a few hours in the afternoon, or vice versa given what my schedule looks like.
However, during the summer, I’m given the advantage of working full time. The summers are one of my favorite parts about this job because I love being in the lab… (I also love the cafeteria food). I love being challenged to take on duties on my own and I also love working with others. I’m so grateful that I’ve got a such a good job to hold on to for a really long time.
I extend all my thanks to so many individuals and groups who have helped me in my STEM adventure. Some of who are listed below:
Amy Samelian (who gave me such awesome and more than helpful advice in the CCC of Harding): For being one of the main reasons I was motivated to explore STEM. Thanks to her, I would not have applied to many different programs or scholarships in high school. I also would not have received so much information in regards to the college application process and a whole lot more.
3M and 3M STEP: For giving me so many countless opportunities…. (and free stuff.. on a really honest note.) And, allowing me to connect and network with new people as well as letting me expand and utilize my skills in the STEM field.
Gratias Sessou and Jose Ortiz: For always being my 3M buddies for life. I can’t imagine how different my experience would have been without the two of you.
My Parents: For being my core and support in almost everything I do.
Science (and the STEM field): For keeping the world running and minds constantly learning.