Diandra Vaval: Phd Student, University of Illinois Chicago, Department of Microbiology & immunology. Diandra works in a bacterial pathogenesis lab with a specific focus on Listeria monocytogenes characterizing a bacterial peptide pheromone that enhances vacuole escape and alters viability. After her thesis work, she aspires to become an academic professor to help mentor many budding scientists including young women and under-represented minorities.
Diandra: This was my first time attending the Scientista Symposium and I decided to attend because I wanted to talk about my science to other women in STEM! Most conferences/symposiums are mostly populated by males, and it was very refreshing to attend a symposium focused on women and their contribution to science.
Clare: I attended the Scientista symposium to obtain more experience presenting my research and to learn about the different opportunities in the STEM field.
2. What was your favorite workshop and why?
Diandra: One of my favorite workshops was the Non-traditional Careers in STEM, it was very informative and opened my eyes towards more roads to success, rather than the traditional ones we all hear about.
Clare: My favorite breakout session was the "Careers in Life Sciences Industry" panel since it allowed for an opportunity to hear from women, with various backgrounds, tell the story of their career that landed them positions at top industry companies.
3. What would you like to see at next year's symposium?
Diandra: More breakout sessions/workshops geared to PhD students, also during the career fair a few more tables with post doc opportunities, maybe a representative from NIH. I also would like to have the opportunity to talk with others during the poster session instead of the session only being open to judges.
Clare: At next year's symposium, I would like to see more participants to see the Scientista community growing!
4. Did you meet any new women in stem any new connections you made through the symposium?
Diandra: Unfortunately, I did not make any lasting connections, but while at the symposium I talked with a few women!
Clare: I met many new people studying different areas in the STEM fields. At many times throughout the symposium, I found myself in awe of all the talented and motivated women represented in the field.
5. What was the most important takeaway from this year’s symposium?
Diandra: The most important take away from this year’s symposium is to have confidence in yourself. The keynote speakers that we heard from were great in this concept! Letting us young women know that we belong and to be strong! It was empowering and amazing and I’m glad that I attended.
Clare: The most important takeaway for me this year was understanding that many of the aspirations that I have are attainable. There were many women who discussed the journey of their career that brought them to the positions they hold today. It gave me insight on how to harness my abilities and utilize the resources around me to make these dreams a reality.
About the Author
Poornima Peiris is an engineer interested in all things STEM related. She is the founder of an initiative encouraging women and minorities to pursue STEM related careers. She has conducted research in various stem disciplines at national labs and was a participant of NASA's space grant program. She is currently working on producing her own science podcast with her local community. Her scientific contributions include a publication in a scientific journal & besides reading up on scientific innovations, she also loves to read books on neuroscience, paint landscapes & create personalized wedding gifts. Aside from dabbling in the creative arts, she does fencing & tennis. Always a Sri Lankan at heart, she loves the ocean & spring weather. She currently splits her time between Massachusetts & New York.