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Reflections from a Scholar: Yara Aguilar

STEM IN ACADEMIA: How Governor’s STEM Scholars conferences are a perfect tool for teens, especially minorities, to expand their horizons

My dream is to one day be a neuroscientist, but when I close my eyes and envision people in this or other STEM occupations, they often don't look like me. I am a Hispanic woman, both of which are very underrepresented in STEM. Not having role models that look like me, that come from similar backgrounds as me, make it difficult for me to chart my path forward.

The Governor’s STEM Scholars’ STEM in Academia conference, was able to connect me to professionals who have similar identities as me, opening my perspective to what a path in STEM could look like. Dr. David Salas de la Cruz, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Direction of Chemistry Graduate Program at Rutgers University-Camden, said that if you’re passionate about something, you must follow through with it. He understood the difficulties minorities are up against. He has a similar background to me, as he was born and grew up in Puerto Rico, so having him on the panel was relatable. He mentioned that having a fear of following through our dreams is something that we minorities have difficulties facing because we haven’t seen our type of people do it firsthand. Not only that, but Dr. Kauser Jahan, Professor and Head of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering at Rowan University, also mentioned that in order to be successful you have to learn to develop a good work-life balance. Because we are part of the next generation of scientists, the world will hold us to higher standards. No matter what, we have to understand that taking care of ourselves will help us take care of the world too.