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Reflections from a Scholar: Erika Toliao

It took two hours in the rain to drive from my Bergen County home to the South Jersey campus of Rowan University for the Governor’s STEM Scholars’ second conference on STEM in Academia. I was thinking this better be worth it. By the end of the day, I knew it certainly was.

The morning consisted of introductions and a panel session, and on our return from lunch, we got to attend STEM classes, including Dr. Beth Christiansen, Professor and Founding Chair of Rowan’s Environmental Science Department. Dr. Christiansen spoke about her role at Rowan including leading student field trips to collect dirt samples to doing research on a boat for two months with people from 26 different countries. She shared one of her professional papers, and as I looked at it closer, I discovered that I have used her paper for a biology project. In my mind I was thinking WOW! I met the author and one of the head researchers of a scholarly source that I wrote about for a class last year. I approached Dr. Christensen at the end of her class, shared that I had utilized her research in my paper, and she gave me a big smile underneath her mask and a solid elbow bump!

This conference was a wonderful experience and everyone I met, both professors and fellow Scholars, were all so kind. It made me think about how small our world really is and how we impact it. This conference was so worth it and I honestly cannot wait to see everyone again.

Written by Erika Toliao

2021-2022 Governor's STEM Scholar

Erika Toliao is a senior at Applied Technology High School in Paramus majoring in mechatronics/engineering. She is part of her school's Technology Student Association (TSA) where she builds physical and digital prototypes to compete in innovation competitions. She is also a leader in many school clubs, including Mathletes, where she participates in mathematic competitions. Erika participates in Girl Scouts and the Youth Climate Action Coalition. In the future she plans to study engineering, specifically software engineering. In her free time, she enjoys spending time coding as well as hanging out with her family and friends.


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