Choosing Paths

Recent (positive) events which I cannot yet disclose have really made me think hard about my career choices. Conventional society tells me I ought to do writing instead of STEM, because it comes more easily to me and academically speaking, I “do better” at it. While, to date, I have earned more money/had more jobs in STEM than writing, I also have not worked on writing or media nearly as much as I have worked on STEM, and still have probably done more and earned more in a writing/media field than some college freshman writing or media majors.

Yet, when I really think about it, I love what I do, and I love my major. I would never give up mechanical engineering or computer science for writing. I just don’t want to give up writing or the humanities either, like a lot of technical people end up doing. I want to be living proof that these two things really can exist in tandem. That’s why I decided to minor in Comparative Media Studies, so that if all else goes to pieces I’ll at least keep writing in the academic frame of my life. 

Only people who have never suffered undergrad at a technical school will tell you to change majors because you feel your classes are hard. You should change if you absolutely hate what you’re doing, but if it’s hard and you still love it, then I think that’s rather the best evidence to keep going. It means that even when everything is going terribly, you’ll still enjoy your work. You should just think really hard about whether that’s true or not. That is honestly how I have felt, particularly in EECS (because the intro class is super fun but kills all grades all the time ever :P) and Physics Mechanics. After I published the two How to Fail posts on the MIT admissions blogs last year, my entire attitude toward MIT and life in general became a whole lot healthier. I realized that some of those cheesy cliches were really true–it’s the journey and the struggle that matters most. I truly enjoyed that journey a lot (well, except for in math, but y’all already know I’m not taking any more Course 18 classes evaarr….I just had to do it to fill the requirement ^^”)

I’m excited to see where this plotline is going :)


At 20, Divya Nag dropped out of college and is now revolutionizing the medical industry

In 2001, George W. Bush banned almost all human embryonic stem cell research. scientists were immediately forced to explore other avenues. But with their potential to take on the form of any cell in the body, stem cells had been (and still are) an enormously promising research avenue. So in 2011, Divya Nag started her own company focused on stem cells derived from skin cells. But she wasn’t done there.

This spring, after a nationwide social media callout and with the help of NPR member stations, we received nearly 200 nominations for diverse innovators who are breaking new ground in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. We picked 14 finalists to feature as part of the #RaceOnTech series on the radio and on social media.

We’ve been featuring a few of these finalists here on Tumblr throughout our four-day-long Twitter conversation with 12 of the innovators. To learn more about the discussion, check out #RaceOnTech on Twitter.

Balanda Atis is a chemist and the manager of the Women of Color Lab, L’Oreal USA. Atis was born in Brooklyn and is of Haitian heritage. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers University and a master’s of science from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s cosmetic science program. Atis has been at L’Oreal USA for nearly two decades, and over the years has worked to create products for women of all color. Determined to find a solution for herself and for women around the world, she formed a task force at L’Oreal and set out on a mission to solve this industry-wide scientific hurdle. It took 7 years, but because of her work, L’Oreal USA rolled out more than 30 new shades of foundation for various ethnicities.

NPR: Do you have any advice for young people of color?

Balanda Atis: I hope young women realize there are careers in the innovation behind beauty and are inspired by the groundbreaking work women do to address the needs of everyone around the world. I hope they feel encouraged and more open-minded about women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and are aware that women can be leaders in STEM. My advice would be to stay curious and explore different career paths in STEM. I never expected to work for a global beauty company and work on developing, experimenting and innovating beauty products. Working in the beauty industry offers you the chance to leverage innovation to help people around the world feel confident and beautiful. Working in the beauty industry allows you to be in the driver’s seat of innovation – of new formulas, products, packaging, research – and reinvent the future of beauty. There’s a deep connection with STEM, innovation and beauty, and working for a global beauty company empowers you to make a true impact on people all around the world.

Top photo: Balanda Atis in the L’Oréal USA Women of Color Lab in Clark, N.J.
Bottom photo: Atis (left) evaluates skin tones at the Neighborhood Awards in Las Vegas.
Photos courtesy of L’Oreal USA
Meet The Woman Who Flew Us To Pluto
Alice Bowman Flew 3 billion miles over nine years from a cubicle in Baltimore.
By rachel-morris

On July 15, people all over the world watched a woman in a cubicle wait for a signal from three billion miles away. In a soft, clear voice, she confirmed that the New Horizons spacecraft had flown within 7,800 miles of Pluto and survived. In the following days, the spacecraft transmitted images that revealed for the first time what the surface of Pluto looks like. It has a smooth expanse just above its equator, some 1,000 miles wide, that resembles a bright, icy heart. It has frozen mountain ranges and spectral plains that may have only just formed. The detail of the photographs and the geological variety of Pluto exceeded all the hopes of NASA scientists. “I’m still having to remind myself to take deep breaths,” said one.

At the center of it all was Alice Bowman, the woman in the cubicle and the engineer who led the team that guided the spacecraft towards its destination. For a while on July 15, she was trending on Twitter. Some cheered her role as the first woman to oversee an operation so ambitious, one that seems to have had more women working on it than any other mission in NASA’s history. Others wondered why her colleagues kept calling her Mom (it’s NASA shorthand for Mission Operations Manager). One week later, when I spoke to her, she was still stunned by all the attention. Her operation is one of brain-bending complexity, and she told me that it’s not always easy for her to translate what she does into words—at least words that most of us would understand. And she was noticeably uncomfortable discussing certain subjects, such as how the role of women in space exploration has changed since she entered the field in 1988. As she explained what it takes to move a small object through space, and everything that she’s seen along the way, what she conveyed most of all was a sense of pure wonder.

Continue Reading.
How I fell in love with quasars, blazars and our incredible universe
Jedidah Isler first fell in love with the night sky as a little girl. Now she’s an astrophysicist who studies supermassive hyperactive black holes. In a charming talk, she takes us trillions of kilometers from Earth to introduce us to objects that can be 1 to 10 billion times the mass of the sun — and which shoot powerful jet streams of particles in our direction.
By Jedidah Isler

“In 2014, she became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D in Astrophysics from Yale.“