The Women Who Inspired Me
Read Part 1 of the doubleheader here.
My growth depended on the myriad of women who mentored me, inspired me, and invested years into my development as a critical thinker.
They valued me as a scientist and challenged me to think of myself as one. They made room for me in the pipeline. Although I don’t have time or space to acknowledge each scientist who made an impact on me, this piece focuses on three of the most inspiring women, their contributions, and the ways their mentorship impacted me:
Lauren Wugalter gave me my first impression of science as I know and love it today. Lauren is a faculty member at Highline College where she teaches general chemistry for science and engineering majors. She was recently awarded the Distinguished Community Engagement Award in 2018 by the University of Washington, Tacoma, where she was formerly an instructor.
Lauren is probably the best person to give you an introduction into the wonderful world of science.
Lauren is passionate about engaging women and minorities in STEM fields, and she kindles science-enthusiasm within everyone she meets. Since her undergraduate career, Lauren dedicated herself to engaging the community in celebration of science. She served as the executive outreach coordinator for the Student Members of the American Chemical Society (SMACS) and her research contributions earned her two publications for her work in designing novel opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. Her exemplary performance in academics, research and outreach earned her many awards including the American Chemical Society POLYED Undergraduate Award for Achievement in Organic Chemistry, the University of Arizona Galileo Circle Scholar, and the University of Arizona Chemistry and Biochemistry Outstanding Senior Award. She went on to pursue a Chemistry Graduate Fellowship at the University of Washington, where she earned her master’s degree.
Lauren is probably the best person to give you an introduction to the wonderful world of science. I met Lauren in my freshman year of college. I knew nothing about professional science and was a pre-med student because I didn’t know what other stable job opportunities existed for a biology nerd. After Lauren presented her research in the chemistry club, I was hooked. She promptly whisked me off to give me a lab-tour where I saw round bottom flasks with balloons secured to their necks, and intricate, alien-looking apparatuses. I had no idea what I was looking at. I was only halfway through my first semester of general chemistry and I was feeling overwhelmed. Despite this, Lauren believed that I could learn everything I needed to know in order to do multistep organic synthesis. If it weren’t for Lauren’s encouraging presence, my bewilderment may have dissuaded me from returning. I stayed in the summer to teach myself enough organic chemistry to appreciate the science I was doing in the lab.
Beyond her warmth, Lauren’s agency in the lab impressed me. Through years of research experience, she built a vast amount of knowledge cultivated a formidable scientific acumen. She was someone I could count on and aspire to. I soon became a fixture in the lab and realized my own love of science over the years. I changed my career prospects from medical school to research science because I was having so much fun in the lab. I credit Lauren with helping me realize a love of the laboratory, a gift I cherish every day.
Rebekah Keating is a Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona. Her research investigates the pathways and neural traits underlying decision-making in insects. She seeks to understand how complex group-level patterns of behavior emerge from