Growing up and as far back as I can remember, I LOVED math. Before going to bed every night I never wanted to read a book, but wanted to do math problems—I wanted to solve complex problems, be the fastest (I was the queen of Around the World flashcards in the second grade!), and thought math was the coolest thing ever. And Math stuck with me all those years, even earning the “Math Award” in high school as a senior.
Summer after the 5th grade I went to “nerd camp” for the summer and fell in love. Unlike other camping and outdoorsy sleep-away camps, nerd camp was on a whole new level. For the next six summers I went back to “nerd camp” spending 6-7 hours a day in class on a variety of topics over the years, studying things like Flight Science, Biomedical Sciences, Applications of Physics in Engineering, and Electrical Engineering, which ten years later, was clearly the foundation of my passion for engineering and why I chose to major in Biomedical (Mechanical) engineering.
Even now it’s hard for me to think of how I feel and how I felt about being a “woman in engineering.” When I was 13, I was the only girl in my summer class, and at 15 I was one of two girls. I made friends in my classes and lived with other girls in my dorm so I didn’t ever mind–succeeding academically and making friends just proved to me that I could hold my own. While some may have seen this as a glaring problem or as “call to action” to get more girls involved, I was much more passive and really never gave it a second thought.
I never really contemplated the perception of girls in math, science and engineering, and dreaded even the idea of attending an all girl’s high school at the thought of not being able to compete with the boys in math and science. Throughout high school I took advantage of just about everything in Math and Science department, taking AP Calculus BC as a junior (and later helping TA the class as a senior), as well as AP Physics BC, AP Biology, AP Computer Science and more. Even then girls were in the minority of the class, but the majority of my friends were guys so I actually kind of preferred it this way. During my senior year of high school, I took Engineering as an elective and was again the only girl in a class of 24, but again, held my own and later earned one of the rare A’s in the class.
Coming to college, I knew the odds would already be better in my favor. I knew I wouldn’t be the only girl in the entire engineering school, and so it wasn’t even a big concern of mine. And as you’ll read in a number of other blogs, USC has an incredible SWE (Society of Women Engineers) chapter, but I never had much interest in joining. I lived with a great group of girls on my floor in Birnkrant, and joined a sorority, and have lived and made friends with a number of awesome women outside of engineering, in addition to my friends within engineering. But I always knew that USC and Viterbi had a number of available resources to its Women in Engineering, and better yet, a good majority of leaders in Viterbi Student Organizations are women!
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below if you have any questions about my experiences and be sure to check out some of the other great blogs on Women in Engineering too! 🙂