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02.06.20 - STEM Talk Focuses on Mentoring

Sharon Hsu and Cheyenne Chavez oversee UCI's Women in
Information & Computer Sciences Club.


Third-year biomedical engineering graduate student, Courtney Kay
Carlson, offers tips to students seeking a fellowship.


Stacy Branham, assistant professor in informatics and interim
faculty co-director of the Masters in HCI Design program
speaks at the STEM event.


On Wednesday, Feb. 5, upper-division undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in STEM fields attended a lunch talk focused on making mentoring and internship connections.

The program, "This is What a Scientist/Engineer Looks Like,” was sponsored by UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, CALIT2 and the UCI Office of Access & Inclusion. Presentations and discussions were designed to help students in STEM fields – particularly women and students of color – to enhance mentoring experiences and benefit fully from internships and research training opportunities.

The event featured brief talks by Cheyenne Chavez, a senior in informatics, and Sharon Hsu, a senior in computer science. The women oversee UCI's Women in Information & Computer Sciences Club (WICS), an organization that serves to empower women and minorities in the information and computer science field.

Courtney Kay Carlson, a third-year biomedical engineering graduate student, shared her experiences and expertise in tailoring a winning fellowship application. Carlson has been the recipient of both the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship and the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She works in the lab of Assistant Professor Chang Liu; her research includes engineering mammalian cells to "remember" their own history in their DNA and then optimizing those cells to study congenital heart disease.

The final speaker, Stacy Branham is an assistant professor in informatics and the interim faculty co-director of the Masters in HCI Design program at UCI. Her research has garnered more than $600,000 in support from the NSF, Toyota and TRX Systems, Inc.

"I look at you and have hope. We can literally change the face of engineering," said Branham, whose undergraduate computer engineering class had fewer than 5 percent women.

Branham shared three practical tips for succeeding in a STEM career: Find your people, make your dream CV and invite yourself. Inviting yourself is a way to increase your visibility, which leads to more opportunities, she explained. To better demonstrate, she noted, "I invited myself to give this talk today."

Presentations were followed by a Q&A with representatives from the university’s Office of Access & Inclusion, Division of Career Pathways, Student Achievement Guided by Experience (SAGE) Scholars and UROP.

– Sharon Henry