Women in STEM Come Together at Berkeley Lab
Shane Laros posted on November 04, 2016 |

While women in STEM fields can sometimes become discouraged in both interest in the subjects or in job placements, there are also many organizations out there dedicated to showing all engineers the value of women in the workplace, and supporting these women in pursuing STEM education and careers.

TechWomen is one such organization, and with the support of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) they work to connect the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

The TechWomen program is run by the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This summer, the program brought approximately 90 women, representing 19 countries, to the San Francisco Bay Area.

2016 TechWomen participants in California. (Image courtesy of TechWomen.)
2016 TechWomen participants in California. (Image courtesy of TechWomen.)

This was Berkeley Lab’s fifth year participating in the program and they hosted two participants: Ureshnie Govender, a senior scientist at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and Angeline Kasina, assistant lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya.

“What I’ve come to realize is that no matter where I go in the world, women are made to feel a certain way,” says Govender.

“What I love about the TechWomen program is that we have been exposed to amazing female leaders. And I think this is what we want to give back to young girls in our respective countries. We want to tell them that you can be feminine and still be an amazing leader, and also have a successful career in science, math, technology and engineering,” she added.

Daniela Ushizima, staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Computational Research Division (CRD), and Teresa Williams, principal scientific engineering associate at the Molecular Foundry, co-hosted the emerging leaders. They introduced their visitors to some of their current projects, and demonstrated some of the Berkeley Lab’s specialized equipment.

“They have so many machines that I didn’t even know existed,” Kasina said.

“Visiting Berkeley Lab gave me a chance to learn new techniques for analyzing materials and to build on my own technical skills. And while it may not be possible to buy the same equipment in Kenya, I now know that the Molecular Foundry has a user program, so faculty and students from the Technical University of Kenya can write proposals to come here and use this equipment.”

The Berkeley Lab used the TechWomen program as an opportunity to acknowledge employees who had volunteered for mentoring, outreach and educational programs. (Image courtesy of Marilyn Chung, Berkeley Lab.)
The Berkeley Lab used the TechWomen program as an opportunity to acknowledge employees who had volunteered for mentoring, outreach and educational programs. (Image courtesy of Marilyn Chung, Berkeley Lab.)

Beyond the equipment and projects, one of the biggest take-aways for the visiting scientists was seeing how interdisciplinary cooperation can have an impact in projects.

“Watching how Daniela, a computational researcher, and Teresa, a materials scientist, work together gave me insights into how interfaculty research projects can be created, motivated and matured. So when I go back to Kenya to work on my physics projects, I will now tap into colleagues in chemistry and math, which I have never thought to do,” says Kasina.

“Coming to Berkeley Lab and seeing how this collaboration is done and how it works, it’s fantastic.”

For more information on the TechWomen program, visit their website. You can also visit the website for the Berkeley Lab to see their new research and opportunities.

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