STEM Majors Panel
Interested in applying to a STEM major and want to know more? Join Admissions Experts and former STEM majors Lisa and Ryan as they share their stories! In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including: – What is the best way to stand out as a STEM applicant? – How do I showcase my STEM related activities? – What opportunities are available for STEM majors in college? Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-11-27 – STEM Majors Panel
Hi, everyone. Welcome. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Welcome to today’s webinar, which is Stem Majors Panel. To orient everyone to the timing of the webinar, our presenters will each present their perspectives and experiences, ask the majors, and then we’ll open up the floor to your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar.
You can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab. Again, please submit your questions in the Q&A tab, not via the chat or not through private chat, just through the Q&A tab. Now let’s meet our presenters, Lisa Pino and Bryan Aldana. Lisa, can you give us, can you start off by introducing yourself?
Hello everyone. I’m Lisa Pino and I did major in electrical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech. Um, in terms of. I was a co-op when I was at Georgia Tech, so I basically worked my way through school. I was a scholarship student, which is how I managed to get through there. And um, it was, uh, I had so much fun actually, and, uh, but onward and have moved on and done many other things.
Now I’m a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor.com. Bryan. Hi everyone. Yeah, uh, my name is Bryan. Uh, he, him pronouns. Um, I did my bachelor’s at Stanford University in bioengineering, and then I’m currently, um, a student at Columbia University doing my master’s in biomedical engineering. Um, interested in, uh, the kind of med tech and medical devices.
Um, currently doing a co-op, um, at J&J actually. So, um, yeah, it’s a little bit about me and I’m excited to share the experience of it all. I’m excited to learn about your biotech, um, uh, uh, journey. Um, and, and I was gonna say trials, but I didn’t wanna make it seem dramatic. Um, but uh, before we get started, we do wanna know from you all who are watching, what grade are you in.
So take a few minutes and let us know, uh, what grade level you are, so it can help us kind of focus our conversation for today. As we are waiting for, uh, poll responses to come in, it would be great if you all could let me know your least and your most favorite class that you took as an undergraduate, um, as a step major.
Well, um, I’ll go first if you don’t mind, Bryan. My, I have to say my least favorite class really had nothing to do with the class. It was a power class, mostly motors and those are fine. It was that the professor gave open tests. And I had never run into one of those before and I thought, oh, open book, this will be easy.
and I flew through that first test. So, watch out for those. I have to say, um, my favorite, I ended up, um, specializing in RF design, radio frequency and antennas. Um, all sorts of wave guides, things like that. The, I took the first class and said, wow, this is fun. So I ended up taking all the classes that I could in it and doing my senior project and just having a great time creating things.
Awesome. Thank you. Um, for me, my favorite class, I think any class that was collaborative, um, a lot of my classes, uh, were like lab projects in which we were working on. Um, uh, I guess to be specific, I had a prototyping class, uh, where we built a fermentor for scratch, where we grew e coli afterwards. And, you know, whoever’s, whoever’s e coli lasted the longest and healthiest was the winner.
And so I think a class like that was a collaborative group effort to try to make something happen and then have it actually work, uh, was exciting. Um, my least favorite class is probably a kind of, um, product biostatistics. It got really messy and it was a lot of, of prior knowledge that was required and, you know, trying to piece together a lot of different maths and, um, also physics that you don’t take into consideration when you’re thinking about the biology of it all.
Um, so it was hard. It was challenging. Um, and asking for help was also challenging for that class. And so having, making sure where to get the resources is something that I, I learned throughout that class. . So for sharing, and I know we’ll get deeper into some of that. For now, we’re gonna go ahead and close the poll.
And just for context, so you all know, uh, about 5% of our attendees are in the eighth grade. 23% are in the ninth grade, 18% are in the 10th grade. The majority, 41% are in 11th grade. So still in that exploratory, figuring things out phase, uh, 9% are in 12th grade and then 5% are other. So I think we can keep it focused on like 10, 11th, 12th grade, um, focus around majors.
All right, so I will stop there, hand it over to Lisa and I’ll see. Okay, so let’s see. Let’s move on from the poll. And, um, we had some questions which you’ll be able to download these later, so I won’t be reading them to you. But in terms of choosing majors, um, when you, when you get to college, After, you know, the high school experience where a lot of times you have to take one of this and one of this and one of this, and you don’t really have too many choices when you get to college.
It’s like you’re the kid in the candy store. And although I chose electrical engineering, any engineer has to take classes in the other, you know, some of the other, um, departments, so mechanical engineering classes, uh, aerospace, chemical, things like that. You take one of these, one of those, and that is a little bit tempting because you, I took a mechanical engineering class and, and said, wow, this is really fun.
Maybe I’ll, no, no, nevermind, I’ll just stick with my major . But, um, that’s the thing. Undergraduate. You go into one major, but you see all these other things that are related to it. So then you start thinking about, ooh, graduate school. Hmm, because, um, there’s just so much that’s interesting and yeah, when I went to Georgia Tech, everyone told me electrical engineering was the most difficult major, and so I had some pride.
I was like, I’ll just try the toughest one. chemical engineers would disagree. No. Um, going through other slides, um, I talk a lot about my childhood in this slide because, um, my dad really made everything real. Like, we can make this, we can do this. Look how wonderful these things are. So that’s what I enjoyed about studying stem is that, I mean, you create new things or you improve things that already exist or you do things to help people.
So, I loved that. And Bryan already referred to the whole working in groups. If you don’t work in groups when you’re studying stem, you have missed the point. Um, people talk about, you know, the lonely genius. Well, no. In stem you really have to, and in fact it’s a matter of survival sometimes to get through the classes.
You get a 10 problem assignment and you think, ah, 10 problems, no big deal. And then you spend five hours on the first problem or the first part of the first problem, and you say, I need a study group. So you find people to study with and you have lab partners, and you have project partners and you just, um, learn to.
Capitalize on, well, I’m really good at this and you’re really good at that, and so let’s split it up and then let’s get back together and put it back together and continue learning together. So that’s one of the things I really enjoyed is getting to know a lot of people and working together. And, oh, I put a lot of advice here on these slides.
Um, kind of practical advice about if you’re getting ready to pursue a STEM career, and probably a lot of you are already doing this, taking all the math and science that you can and try to make sure that you get to calculus level. If you can’t take it in your high school, then try to get it through a community college or an online program or whatever you can do so that you’re prepared.
And really, if you think you’re interested in a STEM career, talk to everyone that you run into who you know, oh, you’re, you’re a doctor, you’re an engineer, you’re a researcher, you’re a scientist, you’re, oh wow. Tell me about it. Talk to them. If you can’t find enough people to talk to, you know, there’s so many people who are putting out things like TED Talks and all sorts of online resources that you can just listen to what they’re doing and don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone that you run into and say, well, I’m actually interested in this.
And just keep asking them questions to find out more so that you know what you’re getting into. Um, and more things, things like internships, things like shadowing, people, just spending an hour at someone’s work time, trying to see what is it like, what is it like, what do you do at work? Um, Is there something that I can help you with?
Is there something I can learn about? Try to get some real world experience if you can. And my last piece of advice, because I have spent uh, quite a bit of my life teaching is go ahead and tutor someone. If there’s anyone in your school or anyone, maybe you go to a middle school, if you’re at high school or to an elementary school, and maybe it’s an after school program, but teach people how to do things because then they’ll ask you those questions that make you go, oh, um, actually I don’t know that.
Let me go figure it out. And then you come back and teach them, show them. And so you’ve deepened your knowledge and you’ve passed along this excitement that you have about STEM to someone else. Okay, so I’ll pass this back. I am back with a quick little PSA just for those in the room who are seeking support and taking your college essays to the next level.
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Uh, thanks for your time. Now let’s get back to our panel and hear a little bit from Bryan and his experience as a step major. Thank you so much, Lisa. Uh, awesome. So starting off with what I enjoyed, um, in studying stem, um, I think Lisa has touched on it a little bit, um, or a lot of it is being able to create life solutions with hands on labs and projects.
I think the beauty in STEM is you can do science and technology and engineering and math in any circumstance, in any kind of situation. You can buy little kits as a middle schooler, as a high schooler to do anything. And, and being able to, um, build solutions, as Lisa said, is something that I’ve always been eager to do.
Um, and so what that looked like in, in university was starting my sophomore year, I was already genetically engineering e coli, um, to make them with sugar induced ch proteins. Junior year I was building the fermenter, as I mentioned, and then senior year, um, for a capstone on building a medical device for measuring Corona chronic intimate media thickness.
And so, If you look at that, it’s like you can do pretty much anything, right? Very different facets. And, and as a bioengineering major specifically, um, that looked like doing a lot of different projects and different kind of, um, fields and spheres. Uh, it could be wet lab or dry lab. And so having the options and opportunities was, was something that was very interesting for me.
And, um, as someone who wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, um, that also helped, uh, transition my myself into what I was interested in doing. Um, I also really enjoy the collaborative environment. Again, just echoing Lisa, um, that really does translates into translate into careers in stem. I think, um, if you’re working in engineering, um, you’re going to be doing something with a lot of other people and having to have a lot of conversations with a lot of different people to try to figure out how to work and how to make it, how to make your goal happen.
Um, and so for most of my. Undergrad and grad career projects, work with partners or groups, um, problem sets. You know, you have those 10 problems. You can’t figure them all out by yourself. You never can, and that’s okay. You’re not supposed to be figured out easily by yourself. And so coming out with, um, study groups or, um, even working with TAs closely and, and having them as a resource, um, was something that you learn to do really, really early on, or if not, you won’t succeed.
And so, uh, being able to, to make sure you make those connections is I. And further, more lastly, with this collaborative environment is being able to learn from your peers. Um, I think there’s a lot to learn, especially when you go into university or just like different, I feel like maybe some of you experience this if you go to like a summer camp and you’re doing this activity.
Um, everyone comes from different backgrounds. Everyone comes from different kind of experiences. Some people have a lot of calculus. My first math class, I had individuals who have taken multi-variable calculus when I have just taken the AP calc. And so sitting in, sitting in a room with them and we’re supposed to be learning the same thing was a big learning curve for me.
But also I had people to lean on, you know, that kind of understood the material better already. And so having those, um, kind of resources in within your peers is also really important. Um, so yeah, STEM super collaborative. I really love it. Um, 10 outta 10. I’m a very collaborative person. I hate competing with people.
It’s not who I am. Um, and so, um, Having other people to lean on is, is super important to me. Um, and what made me choose biomedical engineering specifically, I was always interested in physics. That that’s kind of what I applied for. I applied, um, to Stanford with the physics and or with physics in mind. Um, I had taken AP Physics one and AP Physics two in high school, and I really enjoyed mechanics.
That’s kind of where I was coming from. I actually took a one unit class, uh, once I got to Stanford that kind of explored careers in physics for a, my first quarter. And then within that one, that one unit class, it was a technic course. Um, and each week I sat there and I heard, you know, what these people were telling me about the careers in physics.
Um, and I got a lot of research. It was a lot of research. I, one of the, the worst stories I heard for me specifically as someone who’s a student who was trying to figure out what I wanna do with my career was someone who went to. Antarctica for eight months, uh, missing his family without his family. He left his, his kids and wife, um, only to find out that his theory was wrong,
And so that was kind of the point of, okay, I don’t think that’s what I want my life to be. And so, um, exploring that kind of, you know, what does this career look like for me was kind of the first step in trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Um, and I decided I wanted to be a little more people facing.
And so I actually took kind of a hard pivot to biology courses. Um, I transitioned into, maybe a pre-med track was kind of influenced by my friend group who are mostly pre-med at the time. Um, and so wanted to focus on that. So I took the bio courses, Again, not feeling completely certain that that’s what I wanna do.
I took one bio 101 course with the introduction to bioengineering at Stanford class, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Um, it was a good mix of the biology, a good mix of the physics. Um, and also having that ability to build solutions for people, um, was what was exciting for me. And, and having that research side of also having something, you know, a product maybe perhaps that could be seen in, in, in patients.
Um, and so biomedical engineering is where I fell into my sophomore year. Uh, and each class that I took just kept affirming the fact that I really love this, this kind of space. And like I said, it offered a lot of different kind of pathways. And so that’s what I was excited about doing as well. So advice.
I think this advice has, again, echoed from a lot of the things that we mentioned before. Um, but don’t be afraid to connect with anyone and everyone that in or in any fields that you might be interested in. Uh, cuz I think building that network is of utmost importance when you’re an engineer or you’re going into a STEM field, um, because it’s the easiest thing, um, to connect with someone and all of a sudden you have a job lined up or all of a sudden you have a research position lined up.
Um, and having those opportunities, um, is incredibly, uh, having those opportunities is incredibly easier if you have people to connect with or people that you’ve already connected with. And obviously as a, as a high schooler, um, that means maybe reaching out to a local researcher at local university. Um, I think those opportunities are incredibly precious.
Um, and. Kind of building your resume before you even get into university, right? You have these opportunities that you had experience maybe having wet lab already, or um, you have experience. Um, I think Lisa was like shadowing and you’ve seen the things before and if you’ve seen it already, they’re more inclined to be like, okay, this person knows what they want or they’re interested in this and they know what they’re getting themselves into.
Um, and so making sure those, that network keeps growing. Even if you’re in high school, any little person helps. I’m sure there’s thousands of stories of connections you have in high school that help you through college that maybe help you to your first job or first career path. Um, and then my second advice is kind of finding the intersections of your interests I think is incredibly important cuz I think, um, a lot of STEM careers are heavily interdisciplinary, so you’re gonna be doing a lot of different things.
Um, you have to know some EE, you have to know some me, I think at some. Refining into one thing is is, uh, appreciated. But I think, um, someone who comes with a background of different things as well. Like, um, for example, uh, when I was looking for a co-op role, um, the thing that I, that was like my edge for the role that I got was having the very little experience I had, but the very little experience in, in the neurovascular field.
And so, cause I was interested in, um, mental health reasons and so just that one experience that I had led to a next one. Um, and so I think finding those intersections of all your interests is really important. And, and also you wanna be doing something you like at the end of the day, right? And so if doing something in electrical engineering, right, can be working on a million different things.
It could be in med tech, it could be, um, you know, architectural. Facets. Not entirely sure I didn’t go down the EE path , but I think, um, each thing that you’re doing, each engineering, um, or mechanical engineering falls in a hundred different fields. And so finding which one, um, you’re gonna go into, um, can start as early as high school and trying to figure out what that looks like for you.
Um, and, and maybe you think, uh, a side hobby or, you know, watching YouTube videos of, um, discovering neuroscience, um, might seem like a kind of just passing by time, but might actually really inform what you’re doing later, you know? Um, so don’t kind of lessen those, those interests. Cause I’m sure whatever you do, you’ll find an intersection that, that will really kind of be key to where you’re going.
And I think that sums up my part. Mm-hmm. Awesome. Thank you both so much. I, uh, appreciate you sharing that. And I think what I took away from. And initially it was like there’s just so much that you could do. There’s so many possibilities within what we call stem, that it is important for students to start early and to begin those exploration and ask questions in order to figure out what is the path that they wanna pursue.
And I think to the extent possible, being open to that exploration as they go into college as well. Um, but that is the end of our presentation, part of the webinars. So thank you both again for your time. Um, I hope that those listening found the information helpful and remember that you can download the slides for the link in the handouts tab.
We’re gonna move on to the live Q&A. Um, you will submit questions through the Q&A tab. I will paste them into the public chat so that others can see them, and then I will read them aloud for our panelists to respond. If you’re not able to access the Q&A tab,
the in one of, um, so you have in order, submit you your questions, but we’ll get started. The first question that was here, and I added a little bit to it, but um, it is what are your current occupations? And my addition is how did your undergraduate journey inform your professional journey? Bryan, do you wanna go first,
Sure, sure, sure, sure. Um, so I’m currently a system verification engineer, um, within robotics and digital solutions at Johnson and Johnson. Um, I have a semester left, uh, of my master’s program, but I’ll be working part-time and then, you know, have the job lined up for after I graduate. Uh, so that’s kind of where I’m at.
Um, but also just a kind of, I’m going to be a full-time student as well next semester, uh, doing biomedical engineering. Uh, so med tech, uh, robotic solutions, that’s, that’s the space I’m in. And how did that inform I, I guess the second part of that question, um, yeah, I think my undergraduate degree was learning a little bit of what I like and then kind of falling into internships that then informed this is what I don’t like, this is what I don’t like, or this is what I do like.
And then finally culminating in my senior year when I was working on my medical, the medical device that I was working with my team kind of solidified the fact that this is what I wanna do. I’m interested in medical devices, what does that mean for me? Um, and so going from there is how I got to where I am now.
Okay, great. Thanks Bryan. So I’ll answer the question and kind of go backwards in time after that. Um, right now I am the director of college counseling at a, a school in all girls, uh, private high school. And how I got there is while I was studying electrical engineering, Um, you know, I also had to pay my way through college.
Ah, I’m sorry. I have the guest here. Sit down and Um, I worked through college. I was a campus tour guide. I was a summer orientation, um, leader, and I was a tutor for the College of Engineering, which was fascinating because you just sat there and people brought you their problems. Um, you know, four hours a night.
Um, almost every night of the week they’d come up and they’d say, can you do actuarial math? And I’d say, let me see it . Can you do my physics problems? And I’d say, um, let’s, let’s see what’s going on here. And so I really enjoyed the teaching. So I ended up applying to UC Berkeley for grad school in their education, in mathematics, science and technology, um, area, and getting my master’s there at UC Berkeley.
And then, you know, I, I did other things along the way. I worked for, um, in basically on electronic countermeasures for defense. And I did this, that, the other things. And then I ended up teaching and I love teaching. All the time that I was teaching, I was thinking, you know, you guys need a little bit more direction in the things that you want to do, like say study stem.
So I ended up getting a counseling, college counseling certificate from UCLA and moving into college counseling. So I’ve done a bunch of different things, but the thing I would want to say to students is that, you know, life has, is long and there’s time to do a lot of different things. Do something in undergrad, do different things in grad school, start a job and your job says, oh, we want you to do this.
And you say, well, I wanna do that. And they say, that’s great and we’ll pay you to do this. And , you can do that in your off time or you can, you know, get back to it eventually. So, um, I’ve really enjoyed everything that I’ve done. And how does it relate? Well, again, the fact that I was tutoring students and being a, you know, summer leader and, and working with.
High school and college students all the way through, I think helped me go into the education field as.
Thanks. Um, I think what I was taking away from what you both said was that you fell into things that there was not . There’s not a straight line that I think a lot of folks believe it should be that you do this, then you do this, then you do that. And, and I could speak to that in my own career of just not, this isn’t what I thought I would be doing in high school, but everything kind made sense with each step that I took, um, to get here.
So yeah, trust, trust the life process. I dunno. Um, , uh, the next question that I had, and I I did amend it a little bit, um, were related to classes that you took. So, or classes that you would recommend. So first off, is there a number of science classes that you think a student should be taking in high school in order to be competitive?
And are there specific science and math classes that you think are most important for a student who is considering a stem?
Okay, well, basics. I already said make sure you get calculus in your math, um, in high school and, you know, as close to it as you can. If your high school doesn’t offer it, well, you know, try to get it somewhere else. But, um, in terms of science, you know, have at least the basics. Biology, chemistry, physics again, if you can in your high school.
And then once you’ve covered those basic three, if you have any other space in your schedule and your school allows it, I know all high schools are different, then pretty much take whatever you can and take it to the highest level that you can. Because colleges look at, well, what’s the rigor of your schedule?
Did you, if you had the opportunity to take difficult classes, did you challenge yourself and.
Completely agree with Lisa . Um, I don’t know if I have too much to add, but, um, I think the highest degree that you can take, uh, I think, I think colleges get kind of what schools, what kind of higher level courses were, were offered to you. Um, and so they wanna make you wanna make sure that you’re taking, you know, the highest that is offered to you within your capabilities.
Um, and I think, like I said, I, I was really focused on, on physics, so I took AP physics twice and so, um, maybe, you know, you’re really interested in AP or in biology, so doing that AP bio. Um, I think the worst thing that can happen is you’re taking AP bio, AP chem, AP physics, and you’re not doing well on them. Right? I think focusing on the ones that you’re, uh, feel strongly about as well as, um, feel like you’re able to do, um, and do well in is, is important as well.
Now I just wanna emphasize as well, um, to encourage students that if there is a class not offered at your high school, that you should, and I would encourage you to look for, uh, community college courses or online courses that might be available just for a little bit of exposure. I’ve had students who’ve had difficulty getting into some programs that they were a student because they did not have any exposure to calculus or physics.
So I think exploring summer opportunities or exploring some of those online opportunities that I think have been become more available. Um, after, during the pandemic, uh, I would encourage you to also look at those options again if you can in order to spread out your preparedness for stem. Um, the next question that we had, is there anything that you think a student could be doing now in ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th grade to stand out or I say ninth, 10th, 11th to stand out as a STEM applicant in the 12th grade?
Are there any special moves that students need to be doing or putting into place? Um, right now?
I’d say a lot of this is really dependent on where you are and what resources you have because, you know, colleges understand that some people are not in a space where they can just wander down to the local hospital and volunteer or, um, you know, go to the science museum and join in as a student worker, things like that.
So you, you look around you and take full advantage of it. But, uh, and the same back to the classes. What classes should you take In high school, the college admissions people have, um, your school profile. So they can say, oh, well this high school didn’t offer this, so therefore how could they have taken it?
So then they’ll be even more impressed if you go out and find a place, community college or online to get the thing that is just not, um, easily available to you. That’s my take on it, . Absolutely. Um, and, and I wanna emphasize the, the doing things that your school doesn’t offer, uh, with the school profile.
And specifically when it comes to like extracurriculars. I’ve helped a couple students this past in, you know, I’ve been with CollegeAdvisor for two, two cycles, two and a half cycles now. And so, um, one of the things that I always ask students is, okay, so what do you do? What are you interested in doing?
And those are often two different things because the answer is always, Hmm, well my school doesn’t offer this. Okay, well if they don’t offer it, then is there a national organization that meets what you’re interested in doing? If so, can you reach out to this and maybe start a chapter at your school? Um, I think that.
Two, two of my students have successfully started clubs at their school this past year, um, just because they were interested in doing something and it wasn’t being offered. You know, and that’s where it starts, right? Um, your application, um, is as strong as you know, you’d want it to be. Uh, and if that means, you know, if it’s not being offered in my school, maybe I can look for outside spaces to be able to bring that to my school.
Um, and, you know, maybe there’s not a hospital nearby, uh, but maybe you can start a Red Cross Club, you know, at your school. They have national spaces and organizations and you can reach out to them. And if there’s any teacher that you know is interested in or wants to support you, then boom, you have a club at your school that you just started.
Um, and so those kinds of opportunities and things, um, is something that you look for. Um, it’s obvious if you start a club though, and you have no interest in that thing. So it’s, it’s really walking a line of, you know, you actually care about this. Um, and I’m not just doing this a. To build my resume. I’m doing this because I want to kind of build my knowledge, build my expertise, um, and I wanna bring it to my school and, you know, make a community of other people that also wanna do this.
Um, and I think there’s also just the opportunity of joining clubs at your school that already exist, um, and looking for other opportunities. It might not be starting a club. It might be, you know, volunteering at your local xyz things that’s very specific to where you live, um, but might be STEM related and, and being able to do that.
Um, it doesn’t have to be anything big. It doesn’t have to be a big name, it doesn’t have to be a small name. It can be anything. You know, just shoeing, doing things outside of what’s required of you that will show that you care about what you want to get into, I think is, is the biggest highlight there. Um, and if that means starting a club and start a club, if that means join a club and join a club.
But, um, I think there’s a lot of opportunities, um, that you have to, you know, actively engage with in order to, to really stand out as a STEM applicant.
Thanks. Um, gonna ask folks to please send questions in the Q&A. Please do not send me private checks. If you would like your question to be read aloud. Um, one question that is in the Q&A was what was the hardest STEM related class that you took?
And I would add what made it challenging for you and what resources did you take advantage of in order to get through those challenges? Oh boy. Well, I can go with this one. I was required as part of my major to take three classes in a row of em, electromagnetic, all sorts of, everything was in 3d. and I’m not the greatest at 3D problems.
You know, it’s just, it’s, it’s something that I struggle with when someone says, oh, let’s do that problem where you rotate the cube in your head and predict what the next side will look like. I’m like, oh, oh, those are hard . So, and of course we’re, we’re not just rotating cubes in your, in our head, we’re doing, you know, systems of equations that deal with what is happening in real time as other things are happening to affect it.
And, and onward very complicated. So, but I had to take and pass three classes in this exact subject. And I, fortunately, the professor for the class was fantastic and he offered a lot of office hours, and I was there at every single one. Sometimes I was the only person at the office hours. So I got a lot of one on one interaction, and I’d say, I still don’t understand.
And he was very patient about going through it with me. So, um, and of course those study groups I would join in and say, you know, I’m really good at all that other stuff that we’re studying, but this one. And they’d say, yeah, yeah, we got you. Okay, let’s work together. So with lots of help, um, and lots of, you know, payback.
All right, now I’ll help you with your other homework. That to me is really simple. Um, I survived Uh, for me, if I think back, um, I’d probably say organic chemistry. I think that’s like a general consensus for a lot of people in undergrad is like organic chemistry or even general chemistry is kind of one of the hardest classes. I think similarly to what Lisa said is, you know, having those visuals of 3D things that you’re looking at on paper is very difficult.
And so I think what helped me there very similarly is being at the TA office hours every single week, professors every single week, going to multiple office hours a week to just try to, you know, ask the questions, why am I not understanding this? Is there something I’m missing here? Is there something I’m missing there?
Um, for organic chemistry specifically, practice makes perfect. I think just, um, looking for resources to do online, um, and looking for a different kind of, Methods that you can practice on what you’re trying to do and work on is, is also, uh, just putting in that, that, that extra little work to, to make sure you’re, you’re understanding what you’re doing.
Um, outside of just can I get this answer right on a paper? Um, am I understanding what that answer means when I put it down? I think that was a disconnect for me. Um, cuz sometimes you do wanna feel like you just wanna get through it, but sometimes you don’t have to take a step back and it’s gonna be so much easier if you try to understand, um, through YouTube, through Khan Academy, through your peers, through all the different resources you have.
If you just Google why, like, organic compound, key tone additions, you know, on YouTube or on Google, um, even that step is the first step I did just because I felt very insecure about kind of where I was in, in my classes. And so that was the first step. And then I’d go to my friends and TAs to try to get, um, that extra help to get me to where I feel like I wanted to be.
Um, But yeah, organic chemistry, it’s hard. Um, it, it, but it’s, um, a lot of people go through that same motion of, this is hard, let’s find ways to do it. And it mostly is collaboration, so it’s great. Yeah, I was a social anthropology major and I heard about how hard organic chemistry was. Um, it wasn’t even in my orbit and I, I got the waves of, of organic chemistry stress.
Oh yeah. So, um, and I will say, I think for, for you talking, you were talking earlier, Ryan, about like asking for help. And I will say, I think sometimes, especially with very smart people, they think you’re supposed to know it, but you’re there to learn it. And like, you’re not supposed to know . Um, and you’re supposed to ask questions, and I think folks forget that and get caught up in, uh, wanting to seem smart.
Um, but you’re, it’s okay to say, I don’t know. Um, I had a question. Um, what are some tips to start researching or shadowing doctors or professors? Or any guidance that you would have around that for a student who might be interested?
Oh boy. Um, this is, this one’s where you have to work all the connections you have have ever had or that your parents have ever had. Your teachers, your friends, your friend’s parents. You just keep asking. You’re kind of a pain that’s. Be a pain. I’m really interested in this. Do you know anyone who works in it and who might let me?
I mean, in, in high school, it is very much of a who might let me, there’s not a huge amount you can contribute, whereas when you’re an undergrad, you start being useful. And when you’re a grad student, you’re of course, you know, working all the time. But, um, it’s, yeah, in, in these days, I, I actually had a student a couple weeks ago who asked me this very question and I said, work all your connections.
And I got an email from her yesterday saying, all right, now I’m working with a professor at this research institution and, and, uh, you know, helping her, and she’s again in high school. Um, she may be doing the smallest part, but she’s part of it. So ask, ask, ask, ask everything. Um, she actually worked. She already had a LinkedIn profile and she just kept asking people and someone answered her
Yeah. That’s impressive. Yeah, it was . Even in undergrad, I feel like taking that leap of faith was hard. Um, but I think that just goes to show how you know you can. Just sending that cold email, that cold message really gets you far. Um, which was, which would be my answer as well. Um, sometimes lots and lots taking that, lots of cold messages.
Yeah. So, which, you know, there’s a lot of people who do want to help you. It may be that they can’t, maybe that there’s not, they’re not allowed to have high school students, you know, come into their lab, but, you know, there are tons of people who would wanna help you. Yeah, agreed. I think also, just again, I, I said this earlier, but a Google away
Um, like I had a student this, um, cycle who was really interested, um, and with mental health organizations near her. Um, she was interested in doing psychology, um, which again, is more social, social sciences, but, um, uh, just, you know, mental health facilities near me. And then that led to a list of places that were around her, um, clicked on one.
Looking at opportunities at that place. Next thing you know, she was working as, um, which was a really interesting thing as a health crisis caller. Um, which I thought as a high schooler was really interesting. Um, but they’re open to it, right? They’re open to have these conversations with you and if you’re really interested and willing to, to commit to those things, and they’re more than happy to bring you on.
Um, and so even a Google away, a message away, an email away, a linked in a way, , if you have that. Um, but. I would add that exposure doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna get to be in a, in an operation room, right. Or operating room. And I mean, I have a student right now who is applying to BSMD programs and she was like a receptionist at a, at a, you know, dropping clinic.
And so she wasn’t doing medical things, but she was hearing what doctors were saying. She was learning about patient interaction. Um, so all of those things will set you up. I know that there is a BSMD program that asks you specifically about patient interaction. So, um, you know, none of those, those things don’t.
There are a lot of, um, skills that go into the, the areas that you want to pursue, and there’s a lot of different ways you can get those, um, in order to, you know, prepare the, the strongest application possible. Um, one question off the topic of academics, were, were there, what type of extracurriculars did you take that you feel benefited you in your career or benefited you in your pursuit of STEM while you were an undergrad?
Huh. So high school extracurriculars, I mean, you know, I was in the junior engineering team, yay. That one was direct, but I was also in the band and there’s a lot of physics and music and that really helped me with the first couple years of, of physics. Um, so the thing is, I mean, extracurriculars are kind of more to enjoy yourself, but then surprisingly they do end up tying into your career, I would say
So there’s, there’s one, um, again, it depends what’s available to you. Yeah, absolutely. For undergrad specifically, um, Like Lisa said, it’s definitely what you’re interested in. I think every school offers so many different things. I was actually an education minor, and so a lot of my extracurriculars were education oriented.
Um, I was doing a tutoring program, um, for children in East Palo Alto, kind of mentoring them and, and leading classes, STEM related classes, um, after school. Um, and so something like that is something that I still talk about, is still on my resume now, um, just because it’s something that I genuinely cared about and it, you know, teaching is such an important kind of thing to do.
And, um, if you can teach to middle schoolers, I feel like you can teach to anyone or anything. And teaching is part of the engineering stuff. Um, you’re always teaching and learning from other people, your peers, your collaborators, your coworkers. And so, um, for me that doing an education minor and those extracurriculars that were education oriented, um, really helped me, you know, be able to present my presentations, you know, to my, if I, you know, got.
Results that I wanted to share. Um, and I wanted to share it in a way that everyone understood, you know, that’s like such a deeply, um, important thing to be doing in engineering, in stem. And so, uh, education was what taught me that. And, and, um, and so, um, finding, yeah, just finding what you’re interested in and it probably is gonna lead to something and help you along the way for sure.
Mm-hmm. And I’d say when I was an undergrad and being a campus tour guide and just talking to anyone who came my way and answering whatever random question came my way, and just keeping my calm has really helped me in all facets of my life, including my career. And you both mentioned brand, Bryan, you just did.
And then earlier, um, Lisa, you mentioned tutoring and so tutoring other folks as a way. And I think that that is really clutch, um, because again, to, to the point you both made, if you can explain it to a middle schooler, your, your grasp of it is usually pretty strong. Um, and I would say my students who have done tutoring, I feel like are writing the sharpest essays when they’re trying to talk about what they wanna pursue because they have had to do a little bit more research, um, and thinking about how they wanna explain it to other people.
Um, and so their exploration of their majors, I feel I find to be a little bit deeper than my students who maybe didn’t do tutoring or haven’t done that kind of teaching, um, exposure. So my 2 cents there, um, I wanted to ask a question. Um, someone asked it as a person, and this is specific to Bryan, so as a person looking at the biomedical engineering.
What challenges did you have in studying this field? What were some challenges that you faced specific to biomed medical engineering? Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I hinted at this earlier, but the sheer fact that there are a lot of options and opportunities in biomedical engineering. What that looks like, um, was, it’s kind of a, a double edged sword because I think at some point you’re reaching a lot of classes, a lot of coursework.
You can have different opportunities in different labs. Um, you can be wet lab, dry lab, and then you, you get to a point where you’re like, okay, what am I gonna do with this? Um, and I think every bioengineering BA, every biomedical engineer gets to a point where they’re thinking, um, which route do I go? Um, and so, um, I think a lot of.
Other kind of fields might kind of lead you to a different path or it’s a very direct path if you’re doing electrical engineering. Perhaps, again, I’m not expert in that . Nope. You can go anywhere in electrical engineering, . Um, you can go anywhere, but you’re, yeah, it’s probably like the stuff you learn is exactly what you’re gonna do in all these different fields.
Um, I think in biomedical engineering you’re learning a lot of different things and maybe not getting that same depth. Um, I know Lisa’s expertise, when I hear her talk about the actuators and such, I’m like, I know this person knows exactly what she’s doing. Um, and I think as a BME it is, you’re learning a lot of different things, but you have to choose what to be an expert on.
Um, and I think coming to terms with that, um, and um, and knowing what you wanna do an expert be an expert at is, is something that, for me, studying bioengineering and biomedical engineering, um, was the difficult part. Um, and making sure that what I wanted to do, um, Kind of aligned with what I’m, I’m going to be, what I’m learning in my classes, what I aligned with, what I wanna do later on.
Um, just because there’s a lot of opportunities, and I think I say this specifically because as I graduated, uh, from my bachelor’s program, um, I had a couple of things under my like belt. But when I’d interview for them and that people would ask me depth questions, um, it would be, you know, do you know this?
And my answer would be, you know, I’m not familiar with that. But I did do a little bit of this. And, you know, it ended up being someone who maybe was, was a EE major, Or ME major. And so, um, as a biomedical engineer you really have to make sure you’re focusing on something you wanna be an expert at. Um, and so that was a learning kind of curve when it comes to BME and bioengineering specifically.
Um, and making sure you do become an expert at something at some point, um, is important. . Thanks for that, Bryan. Um, for those of you who are in the room and not currently working with us, we know that the process can be overwhelming. You have a ton of questions that you’ve asked today, a lot more that you’ll ask in the future.
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We’ll leave that QR code up for the free strategy session, um, and we’ll keep it going with our Q&A. One question that I had, and I think this speaks a little bit to what Bryan was just sharing about the need to kind of focus in and become an expert. What are some tips you all might have for researching different careers within STEM
Well, You know, one thing I’d say is where are you in your search? If you really, really are at the beginning and just not, not, uh, really focused in on anything yet, you can’t go wrong with, there’s a website called O Net. It’s o and then an Asterisk, and then N E T O online, um, which just kind of gives you a general overview of careers.
It’s the same thing that, uh, if your college counselors at your school use, you know, Naviance or Maya or SCORE or one of those programs that, uh, they use for you, that, uh, gives you those kind of career, uh, questionnaires. And then it says, oh, you’d be really good at, you know, these kind of things. Um, that’s the very, very beginning.
So, and then once you have some idea, oh, you know, this engineering stuff looks good. Okay, that’s when you want to. You know, bring it real and talk to your high school teachers and say, who else can I talk to? And talk to those people and look things up online. Yeah. Google it . Find a Ted talk about it. Find a YouTube channel about it.
Um, watch, uh, all sorts of videos. Sure. Look into things. Try an online class. Say, oh, I didn’t like that. Actually. Try a different online class experiment. Make things in your backyard, whatever it takes. Yeah. Just, you know, you may say, well, I don’t have this resource or that resource, but, um, use the ones that you.
Agreed. YouTube is, I think in high school, that was the biggest thing. I would literally Google a day in the life of , or even undergrad a day in the life of a bioengineer, . Something as simple as that. Nice. Um, makes all the difference to learn a little bit, even if it’s one experience. You know, that personal experience informs a lot.
I have a question regarding work life balance as a STEM major. So how do you balance studying and having a personal life without feeling overwhelmed and exhausted? So I think there’s a balance, a baseline expectation that STEM is overwhelming and exhausting. I don’t know if you wanna refute that expectation, but, um, if it’s true, how did you go about trying to balance that with being, you know, a typical college student at the same time?
Well, um, I’d say the first part of that is make sure you have a personal life, because that’s the very, you know, most important because no matter what you’re studying, there will be the day that you are not happy with it, or the day you get a test grade that you really are not happy with. And you’ll need to go to your friends and go to your groups and go to your, um, you know, whatever activity, whether it’s, you know, intramurals or, um, just sitting at the, you know, college sports games going, oh, my test.
Oh look, they scored. You need to do that first. Make the friends, join the clubs, do the things, and then go, oh yeah, homework. Gotta do that too.
so, absolutely. Yeah. Um, I, oh, go ahead. Sorry. No, I was about to say cuz those friends that you make in college will still be there. I’m still in touch with mine. Um, even after you’ve long forgotten. What was that test? I really bombed, died. , whatever, sorry, Bryan, go. Um, completely agreed. Um, I think for me specifically I, coming from high school, I was someone who.
Didn’t kind of think about it too much. I did my homework, I did my social life without thinking twice about it. It was never like a juggle. And then I think getting to undergrad is definitely when you are like, Hmm, maybe I didn’t even think about this. Is it gonna be, I have two questions left. Let me go out to do this with my friends, or should I stick around and do this?
Um, and sometimes the decision, at least my first few quarters as an undergrad was not the right one, . And so, uh, I think for me was just being organized. I think I started a Google calendar for my classes and, and making sure even allotting time to do my homework and allotting time to meet with friends.
And I know that sounds a little too like. I don’t know the word too strict, but you know, you do it all and then, you know, if things deviate, things deviate. But I think having it, um, on a calendar and, you know, oh, from five to seven I have plans to have dinner with my friend at this place. Um, I know in those two hours I will not be thinking about my homework.
I will not be thinking about anything else. I’ll be with my friend because I know in my head at seven, from seven to 12, I will be working on this problem set that I, I have to do. So I think something like that, um, and maybe if you’re a better student in high school, that’s something you’re already doing.
But if not, maybe thinking about doing that forward, um, is what shaped me from, you know, not feel feeling really overwhelmed with being able to manage my, my kind of work life balance. No, that’s actually advice we give to, um, our first year , first year college students from a success advising approach of like, you’ve gone from being very scheduled.
Your high school had a very strict kind of period of time where you were supposed to be there, and then you had whatever accountability you had at home, or responsibilities you had at home. So there was expectations, and now you have to recreate those expectations and structure for yourself. Um, so absolutely it’s a good practice.
Um, one question that I had, um, that came in through the registration was, what should I look for to understand if a college has a good STEM program? So are there, um, you know, I know, and I know it depends on what you wanna study, but are there some baseline expectations of, um, that students should have when they’re looking for and evaluating STEM programs?
Huh. Well, I would say, Hmm. Baseline. Um, most of the, most of the colleges that we’re talking about with STEM programs have both undergraduate and graduate degrees. I mean, there are some, some great colleges that are only undergrads, which is, you know, its own type of college. But, uh, most of them have that mix.
And so you kind of wanna look at what is the college producing, what’s coming out of it, what articles have they published? Where do their graduates go? What do they do? Um, not that, not that the college has to produce all the Nobel laureates in the world. Mm-hmm. . Um, although that was actually really fun at UC Berkeley, because you’d be standing there in line and you’d be like, oh, uh, duh.
That person’s a Nobel laureate, um. But you, you wanna look at. What’s coming out of the college? You’re going to go in, how are you going to come out? Are you going to be studying with those people who are gonna be famous? Are you gonna be famous one day? what, what’s their track record? Kind of agreed.
Especially the publications, uh, when it comes to research in stem, it’s, you know, what are, how many publications are they putting out? I think that’s a statistic that is public when you look at schools. Mm-hmm. Um, and then furthermore, um, what are they pulling out but also look at the research? Is it something you’re interested in doing?
Um, I think at the end of the day, if they’re, if a school is doing something you are interested in doing, You get into that lab when you’re there, and then that lab will offer you a role in your next position. You know, whether that be a grad student at, within the same lab or whether that be, you know, a company that’s doing something similar or whether that be, you know, you know, the next step.
Um, and so obviously as a high schooler, maybe you don’t know what that looks like quite yet, but even if it’s like a, a specific realm of things, you know, they have a really good robotics kind of space and they’re doing a lot of research within robotics and um, and, you know, you can see yourself being in that lab, you know, that’s a good start.
Um, and then hopefully, you know, those things align where this school is producing a lot of publications and also it’s pub producing things that you’re also interested in, um, and kind of finding. Middle ground. Um, cause I don’t think it has to be necessarily a, a big name. It could be like your local state school that has exactly the program that you’re interested in that’s doing the research that you really wanna do or are interested in doing.
Um, and that already is a great projection into, you know, a future career. Um, so just that little research about, you know, the research that they’re doing is that, is that, um, I think first, or maybe not the first step, but you know, a couple steps in there to kind of determine, you know, is this where I want to apply?
And I mean, it’s actually really easy. Just follow them on social media because as soon as they have something wonderful to talk about, there’re going to put it out there. . And you’ll see, wow, they made this, wow, they did this. Oh, I wanna work with people who. Exactly. Yeah. My only 2 cents would be making sure there’s opportunity for you to access those research opportunities as an undergrad and how competitive getting into those labs may or may not be.
I often encourage some of my STEM young women to look at some of the, um, better funded women’s colleges because they’re small, they don’t typically have a graduate level. There’s gonna be a lot of opportunities for you as a young woman to get access to research opportunities. So a lot of different angles you can go at it, but looking at where you going to have the access to any of those opportunities that are coming out from the institution as well.
Um, there were some kind of specific individualized questions that I either of you can take, um, that I’ll ask if anatomy and physiology are offered at high school, should I take them, if I will just have to retake them in college. Take them. Well, I would say one, take them and two, did you know that, um, the college board is getting ready to offer an AP Anatomy?
Super cool. Yeah, it’s coming up. They’re, uh, piloting it this next year, I believe so. I know someone who’s involved in it, so, you know, but it’s, it’s public. You can find out that they’ve been discussing it for a while. So, um, yeah, take it. And then this last question is, should I apply as a public health major or biology major since biology can be more competitive?
That’s a great question. It’s very specific. I think it, public health lends itself to be very different from biology. I think. Um, you’ll be learning quite a different things and I don’t think there’s much overlap. I, I, you think the names might sound like there’s a lot of overlap, but I think public health is definitely, you know, pub policy oriented.
Um, whereas biology, you’re gonna be learning a lot of, you know, different parts of biology from evolutionary to microbiology, xyz things that you just won’t be getting with a public health major degree. Mm-hmm. um, to competitive to get in. I might actually counter that. I think some public health programs are actually pretty hard to get into as well.
Um, and so knowing, um, specifically, um, how that school aligns itself with the public, it’s public health school or it’s biology school, some biology programs are much larger and so therefore less competitive than a public health one that’s much smaller. Um, and so I think there’s a lot of things to weigh there.
Um, yeah. That’s my answer. Yeah, I think for that one, it depends on the institution. Yeah. Whether or not public health is gonna be easier or more difficult. All right. Well, thank you everyone for coming out. Thank you so much to our panelists for your patience and thoughtful answers. We so appreciate it.
That is the end of our webinar this evening. We hope that you gained some insight into the benefits and challenges of pursuing a STEM major in college. We also hope you’ll join CollegeAdvisor.com for our future webinars. We’re gonna end our November webinars with applying to college with learning accommodations tomorrow.
Um, we hope to see you soon. Until next time, have a great evening. Thank you. Thank you, Lisa. Thank you so much. Thank you, Bryan. Have a,