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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Conference explores women in science, engineering careers

Kayleen Helms had no female role models to turn to when she attended Texas A&M’s aerospace doctoral program over a decade ago — an experience she shared at this weekend’s women in science and engineering conference.
The 23rd Annual Susan M. Arseven ’75 Conference for Women in Science and Engineering took place Saturday at the MSC. WISE holds this annual conference to empower doctoral and graduate students with the opportunity to connect with seven different industry or academic speakers.
Helms, a representative for INTEL and former A&M doctoral student, stressed the importance of female STEM doctoral and graduate students assembling to realize that they are not isolated in these male dominated fields. She reflected on her time as a doctoral student in A&M’s aerospace engineering program with no female role model to turn to outside of her involvement in WISE.
“For me, I had no female role models in my department, no female faculty,” Helms said. “The only role models that I had direct access to were through WISE, with the exception of one person who was in the college of engineering at the dean’s level.”
Natalie Harvey, chemistry doctoral candidate and WISE president, said the conference began as a way to encourage more women to successfully pursue careers in science and technology.
“It was started because retention in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is not very high for women,” Harvey said. ”WISE was started to provide a network and give a foundation to encourage women to stay in these programs and further their education.”
The conference’s keynote speaker was Alveda J. Williams, one of the women on Diversity Journal’s 2015 Women Worth Watching list. She broke the conference’s theme of women leveling the playing field: strength through diversity into its two parts. Williams contested there is no such thing as a level playing field, because, as in every situation of life, people have their unique weaknesses and advantages. She then went on to describe her involvement in the Dow Chemical Company’s Building Engineering and Science Talent. The BEST program introduces racial minorities with doctoral and post doctoral degrees to industrial research and a potential opportunity with the Dow Chemical Company.
Randara Pulukody, chemistry graduate student and WISE treasurer, described the positive influence has had for her career decision.
“I was really trying to make the decision between industry and academia for a long time,” Pulukkody said. “WISE really helped me confirm the decision that I would go into industry because whenever I go to the conference, I see both sides of the story, I can go to the talks done by the professors [and] go to industry talks [to] hear their side of the story.”
“At the end of the day, no matter what someone’s initial skillsets are, the academic environment — coming into a good school like Texas A&M — arms us with more tools, more knowledge, more expertise so we start off with a reputation and then it’s up to us to figure out how to use it and how to grow that more,” Helms said.

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