Highlighting OSU Women in STEMM
There are many highly talented and successful women, both faculty and staff, in the STEMM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) at Ohio State. Generally women in these fields are in the minority and may be stereotyped and face challenges that men don't. The Women’s Place has selected the women below to represent the diversity in disciplines, interests, and skills of this group and to share some of their career motivations and challenges.
Nancy Stasik is a physician assistant at the Ohio State James Cancer Hospital. She chose her career path because she had been interested in medicine all her life, and she was attracted to the time with patients, work with physicians and life-long learning it offered. It was also very important to her to have time to spend with her family, and she discovered that many physician assistants felt that their careers offered work-family life balance. She is inspired by how the leadership at the James is "real and accessible." The patients' courage and determination also inspire her to learn, be curious and create solutions. She advises others to "surround yourself with people who are able to inspire you, ask questions, make you laugh and make you want to be an even better person. Reach for your dreams because if you don't even try, you have already failed yourself. Even if that dream turns out different, the journey was still totally worth it."
Sharion Frazier, MLT, RLATG, is a laboratory animal technologist in the Office of Research. She gained research skills and experience from a twenty-year military career that required excellence. Continuing her career at Ohio State made sense because the university requires the same atmosphere of excellence. “I wanted to continue my involvement in research and feel honored to be contributing at the ‘groundwork’ level,” she said. She finds satisfaction in knowing that her job benefits society. Her advice for others in STEMM fields is “We should always aspire to do our best, knowing that our best efforts in the present will benefit future generations, especially in the areas of science and math.”
Kelly Keller is a nurse manager at the Wexner Medical Center. She enjoys being a part of an academic medical center because it is often on the cutting edge of research, and she has the opportunity to collaborate with other leaders to help make the medical center successful. In her position, she has learned that every interaction counts and can have a domino effect on others. She is inspired by her wonderful mentors and by innovative people who think of new and improved ways to do quality work. As a staff nurse, she has found advocating for her patients challenging at times, meeting some resistance in this area. Her advice to young women in STEMM is “always continue to choose to do what is right, be accountable to yourself and to others and treat every day as a new opportunity.”
Dr. Shonali Raney is a psychologist and associate director/director of Clinical Services in the Office of Student Life. She realized that psychology was her calling when she volunteered in India and saw first-hand the difficulties faced by individuals with mental health conditions. Dr. Raney is the first woman to hold her position at the university. This, in addition to being an international woman with few role models, has made her job more challenging. She finds inspiration in the students she serves. "I am so inspired by the resiliency of the students we serve who, in spite of great odds, still succeed. They help me stay grounded and remind me every day of the importance of our role at this university," she said.
Kristen Cole is a division administrator in the Division of Hematology, Department of Internal Medicine. She describes herself as a natural organizer who moved quickly into management. One challenge she has encountered is balancing home and work priorities, but she found a solution by combining expert time management and keeping her focus on the task at hand. What she appreciates most about her work is "being part of something big." "Even though I don’t personally treat patients or conduct research, I am an important contributor to the team, enabling the physicians and researchers in my division to work toward a cancer-free world," she said.
Dr. (Julia) Marcela Hernandez is a post doctoral researcher in veterinary biosciences. She attributes her success in her field to a passion for molecular genetics and having an excellent mentor: "He taught me how to be a scientist, inspired me, and challenged me to get better constantly." Hernandez feels that having access to many scientists with a variety of expertise and facilities with the most modern equipment top the list of benefits of working at Ohio State. Her biggest challenges are views held by other scientists that there's only one PhD career path and those who do not perform academic research "lack intelligence, drive, or ambition." Nevertheless, she finds that her career is exciting and has the right work-life balance.
Valery Tarver is a senior management engineer at the Wexner Medical Center. She was encouraged to pursue a career in engineering by her father who was an engineer. In addition, participating in a junior high school science explorers program increased her interest in science and engineering. While her geniune passion for her work drives her success, Tarver encounters challenges working in a predominately male field and had to adjust to this environment. "There is always a tone of show and prove you are as knowledgeable about technical and business principles," she said. She feels that women bring "attention to detail, and innate creativity and innovation" to the field and encourages women to pursue a career in engineering.
Phoebe Kim is a systems analyst/programmer with Digital Solutions at the Health Sciences Library. She has a BS in industrial design and has “loved to build things, take things apart and work with computers since grade school.” She especially appreciates the great people who surround her at Ohio State and says that they “encourage me daily to take risks and step outside my comfort zone and guide me to the next level.” Her biggest challenge is “presenting new technology as a solution” since “people are inclined to stick to what they already are familiar with.” She believes that women bring "attention to detail, and innate creativity and innovation" to the field and encourages other women to enter the field.
Dr. Gail M. Whitelaw directs the Ohio State Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic and holds a PhD in audiology. She particularly enjoys her field as “the perfect blend of basic and applied sciences” and enjoys the challenge of working with advances in technology and hearing science and learning about genetic discoveries. She always excelled in science but chose her field because she also wanted to change lives with her work. She admires and respects her students and colleagues, but is most inspired by “our patients and their families.”
Nita Williams is a clinical research manager in the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) at Ohio State. She worked in basic laboratory research programs prior to her experiences in coordinating and managing clinical research studies in the CCC. About her choice of cancer research as a career she notes that her mother died of colon cancer at a young age and she says, “Aside from a time when I was six and wanted to be a firefighter, there were no other options in my mind.” She appreciates the vast number of cancer researchers at Ohio State who collaborate toward the same ultimate goal. Her advice to young women in STEMM is to “find a mentor and find one early… don’t count on your coursework alone!”
Pamela Thompson-Cook is a systems developer in University Advancement. What she has enjoyed most about her work at Ohio State is the opportunity to expand her skills to serve customer’s technical needs. She frequently wears her “student hat” and values the constantly changing nature of the IT field. “In this field, you have to keep an open mind, be flexible and want to continue to learn,” she said. She credits her success to her interest in learning new skills and learning from her coworkers.
Dr. Barbara Keyfitz is the Dr. Charles Saltzer Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics. Dr. Keyfitz enjoyed studying math in high school and was also encouraged to do so by her parents. She continues to have strong support of her career, now from her husband and children. In addition to this support, she attributes her success to being able to put preconceptions aside and approach challenges with a problem-solving attitude. She has experienced difficulties/roadblocks, though. She notes that when she began her career, "for the most part, women were not taken seriously and were also considered fair game, both for sexual predation and for unwanted intrusion into our personal lives." Her advice for women is: "Always keep in mind that you may be among the majority of women who undervalue their talents, so don't rely exclusively on your own opinion of yourself. And don't be hesitant to try new things, as some tasks and directions that might sound off-putting might turn out to be exciting."
Dr. Nongnuch Inpanbutr is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences. She enjoys working at Ohio State because she has the opportunity for both teaching and research collaboration across disciplines. She feels that her mentors, work ethic and the infrastructure at Ohio State (for example, the Digital Union, UCAT and supporting staff) have contributed most to her success. Dr. Inpanbutr is inspired by her family, circle of friends and students. "Veterinary students are among the best and brightest, intelligent, interesting, good, and compassionate young minds," she said. She experienced challenges early in her career, which began 24 years ago when the veterinary school was still predominantly a white-male society. "It was hard to understand many of my peers and make them understand women. Furthermore, learning to say NO sometimes when I am asked to help others is a good thing, since I only have 24 hours in a day," she said. Her advice to young women is to "surround yourself with good and compassionate people, not just successful people, and work hard and play hard" (she plays tennis 3-4 times a week).
Dr. Tamerah Hunt is the director of research for the OSU Sports Concussion Program and assistant professor of Clinical Allied Medical Professions. Her parents influenced her career choice by urging her to follow her dreams and making sure that she did the work it takes to achieve those dreams. She attributes her success to her "passion for my patients, work ethic and ideology about professional responsibility." What she appreciates most about working in athletic training and concussion research is that "what you learn, see, touch or do can be translated directly into patient care. Athletic training is such a hands-on career and you touch so many aspects of an individual's life." Her advice to other women is to "be willing to make mistakes, but learn from them."
Dr. Jessica Winter is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. One of the reasons she enjoys working at Ohio State is because, with so many different fields represented, she is able to collaborate with physicians, biologists, chemists, physicists, materials scientists and other engineers. Dr. Winter faced challenges, debt and lack of parental support, that prevented her from immediately pursuing her dream of graduate school and a research career. So the path to her current position had a number of turns. However, she feels that she would not be where she is today without the support of a wide variety of mentors. “From the 6th grade science teacher in elementary school (Mrs. Rose), who finally helped me ‘get’ science, to my colleagues today … we need people to pick us up, set us back on our feet,” she said.
Dr. Jacqueline Davis is an associate professor in the College of Optometry and clinic chief of an OSU outreach clinic. Dr. Davis decided in 8th grade that she wanted to become a orthoptist, a technician who corrects imbalances of the eye muscles. But her school counselor believed she was capable of achieving more and with her encouragement and support from her family, Davis took the optometrist path. She feels that optometry is an excellent profession for women because it offers a wide variety of modes of practice. She finds her career very rewarding because she oversees students who provide vision care services in an underserved community and having a positive impact in patients' lives every day elevates her work from a job to a passion. "There is nothing better than pursuing your passion every day of your career!" she said.
Dr. Deborah Mendel, DDS, is an associate clinical professor in the College of Dentistry. She chose a career in dentistry because she always enjoyed working with her hands, sewing and creating ceramics, and has always done well in math and sciences. Dr. Mendel found that dentistry combines both art and science. Her parents' pride in her accomplishments and encouragement to "be the best you can be" motivated her to pursue advanced degrees. One of her challenges is combining a career with raising two children. Even with help from a supportive husband, she notes, "It takes organization and patience, but I wouldn’t have it any other way."
Dr. Paula Mouser is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. She was encouraged to study in a STEMM field by her father and brother who both work in STEMM fields. While Mouser is challenged by work-life balance, her department is very supportive of her career. "I am surrounded by an extremely professional and friendly group of colleagues who champion my work and act as mentors when I need guidance on tough issues," she said. Her advice to aspiring women in STEMM fields is "Persevere in your STEMM field — we are positively changing the dynamic in our profession, one woman at a time!"
Dr. Gloria Fleming is a clinician and faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science. She attributes her professional success to her experience of caring for diverse groups of patients throughout the United States, which has given her a familiarity, comfort, and trust among a wide range cultures. The lack of role models in her subspecialty, which has historically been male dominated with minimal African American clinicians, has made succeeding in her career more challenging. She has overcome this with "dedication and commitment to my patients as well as an excellent mastery of skills." She advises young women to "become active in women’s professional organizations and familiar with resources they may offer to strengthen your portfolio."
Dr. Maria Miriti works in the area of plant community ecology and is an associate professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology. She is currently studying the population and community dynamics of desert plant communities in California. Her research “attempts to merge information on the spatial distribution of resources and the distinct responses of neighboring individuals to the spatial characteristics of their environment.” Dr. Miriti is a member of the international Science Advisory Board (SAB), a network of life scientists, including only 19 representatives chosen from disciplines supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS). (http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/sab/current)
Dr. Claudia Turro, professor in the department of chemistry, is an accomplished scholar who was named a 2010 Fellow of the American Chemical Society, and a 2011 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Her research group is interested in understanding and utilizing reactions of metal complexes that can be initiated with light. Commenting on what most contributes to her success, she says, “The true inspiration comes from the excitement of new discoveries and the reward of training new students to think scientifically and to creatively seek solutions to questions of significant importance, such as human health and renewable energy.”
During the 2011-12 academic year, two Ohio State women scientists were elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Yasuko Rikihisa and Dr. Tina Henkin.
Dr. Yasuko Rikihisa is a professor of veterinary biosciences and does research in host cell receptors and signal transduction of ehrlichiae. These bacteria cannot live outside other cells and can cause fatal illnesses in animals and people. She has been inspired in her career by “great research progress and accomplishments by other scientists in the biomedical field” and she cites curiosity and opportunities afforded by research grant funding for encouraging her to pursue a career in biosciences. For her, Ohio State’s infrastructure and support for biomedical research are key advantages to being here.
Dr. Tina Henkin is the chair of microbiology and also the Robert W. and Estelle S. Bingham Professor of Biological Sciences. Her research is in “the analysis of the mechanisms through which cells sense changes in their environment and transmit that information to the level of gene expression.” She notes that her biggest career challenge was “balancing all the different aspects of the job (teaching, research, administration), while maintaining family life. Nevertheless, she has been successful and attributes this to “mentors and colleagues over the years who value my work, and have supported me in many ways” and her “willingness to take chances and follow up on ideas that lead us away from what others in the field are doing.”
Faculty and Administration
Dr. Joan Herbers is a professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology, and her research focus is ant evolution and ecology. As PI of project CEOS, she has also developed expertise in gender studies in science and says, “I LOVE the fact that I can interact with colleagues across the university and learn new areas so readily.” She notes that she and her husband handled dual-career challenges by splitting an academic position at the beginning of their careers, an option that is available at Ohio State.
Dr. Mary Juhas is a clinical professor in materials science and engineering. Before accepting her new job as associate vice president, she was the associate dean for diversity and outreach in the College of Engineering where she advocated for all underrepresented groups in the engineering disciplines including women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities. Dr. Juhas spent two years on loan to the National Science Foundation program directorate for engineering as the director of diversity and outreach and is also a co-PI of Project CEOS. She recently completed a term as the chair of the President and Provost’s Council on Women at Ohio State where she helped craft reports on dual career hiring at the university and on technology and work-life balance.