‘Women in Science’ talk about value of research

The College’s “Women in Science” group held a small discussion panel to talk about the opportunities and lifestyles involved with careers involving heavy scientific research.

The panel that took place on April 15 was titled “Research: Is it for me?” and featured four female faculty members from different corners of the College’s school of Science.

“The personal experiences, insight and advice the speakers shared with the students made this an interesting and valuable event,” Patricia Van Hise, assistant dean of the school of Science, said. The other speakers were Nancy Hingston, professor of mathematics and statistics,?Andrea Salgian, professor of computer science, Maggie Benoit, professor of physics, and Stephanie Sen, professor of chemistry.

Each of the women shared with the audience their own personal experiences leading up to their present positions. Some of them had originally set out with other plans.

“I originally wanted to be an astronaut,” Benoit said, adding that when she was younger her father was always buying her astronaut-related things as a result. Her career intentions changed once she got to college (she is an alumna of the College) and discovered earth science.

“I was like, ‘Wow, somebody can actually study earthquakes for a job?'” Benoit said. After graduating from the College in 1999 with a major in physics, she went on to receive a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and later completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eventually she returned to the College as a faculty member and now regularly conducts research in her field.

Sen shared a story similar to Benoit’s. Originally thinking she was going into music, Sen did not expect much when she first took science classes in college. Her organic chemistry class, however, became something that she ultimately loved and caused her to switch majors.

The four speakers also gave some descriptions of the intense yet interesting research that they currently carry out as major components of their careers.

Although they said that research is not for everyone, going to the College certainly has its advantages for those that want to conduct research.

“I think that it’s true that at most colleges they don’t do as much research as they do here,” Hingston said.

She added that this is an advantage that puts students at the College ahead of those in their same field at other schools.

The speakers also said that doing undergraduate work at the College helps students become initiated to the world of science and also helps them become more experienced and familiar with the processes that are involved with scientific research.

“Women in Science” is a group of faculty members and alumnae at the College that aims to mentor and support women seeking careers in science.

More information can be found here.

Brianna Gunter can be reached at gunter2@tcnj.edu.