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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.

Being exposed to advice and lessons from professionals in STEM is one of the best parts of being a Governor’s STEM Scholar. During the conference, I felt proud to be a member of the Governor’s STEM Scholars class of 2023. All of us share the same love for STEM, and even though we have different backgrounds, we all understand how important it is to spread awareness about STEM. Through this program, we are all able to give back our STEM knowledge to the world.

Written by Yara Aguilar

2022-2023 Scholar

Yara Aguilar is a junior at Jose Marti STEM Academy. She has conducted research since 2019 on various topics ranging from psychology to biomedical engineering to chemical engineering. Yara has been selected to present at prestigious science fairs such as the New Jersey City University symposium where she was one of two high school students chosen to present her project in front of graduate students. Throughout her endeavors in research, she has discovered her love to help others, leading her to pursue a career in the field of medicine. Her passion to assist has geared her to be the vice president of the Scientific Research club, a club for people interested in all kinds of research, and Ambassadors of Tomorrow, a club where underclassmen are paired with upperclassmen to build a healthy network within the community of the school. She is a charter member of both the Science National Honors Society and the Math National Honors Society at her school, where she provides tutoring for underclassmen. Yara strives to become a physician to give back to her under-resourced Hispanic community. She enjoys drawing and reading in her free time.


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