For centuries, women have fought for equality between the sexes. Inequality between women and men lurks in the shadows in seemingly small to egregiously large ways. From blue and pink baby shower themes to disparities in jobs, inequality exists in all aspects of society. Although society in the United States has made efforts to flatten the curve of inequality between the sexes, women today are still advocating for their rights in numerous ways.
Little girls are told to play with dolls and wear pink dresses. Whenever they do something that doesn’t fit this model, they’re told, “That’s for boys.” We tend to look up to people who look like us, and for many little girls, that means models, teachers, nurses and singers. Although those are amazing professions, we, as women, are shown that we cannot be the president of the United States, the surgeon that separates conjoined twins, a construction worker or a scientist.
The U.S. Department of Commerce released a 2017 report examining the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce breakdown. 48% of women in the United States have jobs supporting the efforts to close the gap between the sexes, but women hold only 24% of jobs in the STEM field.
In light of the disparities and in celebration of last month being Women’s History Month, this mini-series aims to highlight and celebrate Albion professors and aspiring students in the STEM field.
Haley McQuown, a sophomore from Albion, Mich., is a biochemistry major and Spanish minor.
McQuown’s family fosters her insatiable curiosity and joys of life. She plans to become a molecular neuropharmacologist and wants to develop more helpful antipsychotic drugs than those currently on the market. McQuown wants to do this in an effort to give back to her family members, some of whom suffer from diseases that would benefit from these treatments.
Before the Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, McQuown was taking a class on the synthesis of organic compounds, conducting research with psychology professor Dr. Jeff Wilson on the escape and avoidance learning in earthworms and working as a TA in chemistry and peer tutor in psychology. With online classes in effect, McQuown assists chemistry professor Dr. Cliff Harris by hosting office hours for his class. She uses her mentoring skills to advocate for women in the STEM field.
“I work as a TA and a peer tutor because I know how to explain class material without using as much jargon as professors, and I’ve been told that this kind of an explanation helps people understand the material better,” said McQuown. “This kind of work builds confidence in students, and I know that lack of confidence and support is a huge reason why women decide not to continue in STEM careers.”
Aside from her academic success, McQuown is also a member of the British Eight marching band, Kappa Delta sorority, Sigma Alpha Iota and the community mentor program.
Anna Crysler, a sophomore from Rockford, Mich., is a biochemistry major and applied mathematics minor.
Crysler grew up as a competitive gymnast, training over 25 hours a week. Her extensive practice brought her multiple injuries and visits with physicians where she found herself frustrated. These dismissive and irritable experiences quickly became a motivation for Crysler to become a better physician than those who treated her.
Crysler is currently taking a course in organic chemistry and genetics and conducts research with associate biochemistry professor Dr. Craig Streu to select antibodies using yeast surface display. She will soon begin her own research project through FURSCA, an Albion program aimed to support undergraduate summer research.
Crysler’s passion in the sciences does not stop in the lab. Crysler plays the saxophone in Albion’s Jazz band, is a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta and is a tour guide. She takes advantage in her position as a tour guide and advocates for young women in the STEM field.
“Sharing my story and all of the successes and failures I’ve faced hopefully inspires these students to feel that they are also capable of being a successful woman in the STEM field,” said Crysler.
Hannah Woods, a junior from Macomb, Mich., is a biochemistry major.
Woods’ high school teacher motivated her to continue learning about science and to pursue a degree in biochemistry. Chemistry department chair Dr. Kevin Metz inspired Woods to expand her knowledge and to be profound in the unknown.
Woods is currently enrolled in physics, biochemistry and microbiology and conducts research with Dr. Vanessa McCaffrey on the catalytic abilities of vanadium complexes in styrene oxidation, in other words, very smart and important research. She is on track to apply to graduate school for a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences. Woods wants to discover new ways medicine can interact with the body, teach others new things about the medicinal world, and become a researcher.
While Woods encourages and cheers on the women in her life, she is a first-year experience mentor and captain and a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority.