An Intellectual Desire
During the course of my chemistry doctoral research I have acquired an adeptness at analyzing chemical reactions, a keen eye for elegant molecular transformations, and a sharp ear for imminent explosions. What I regard as one of the most important developments of my Ph.D. studies, beyond my technical expertise and scientific accomplishments, is my passion for advocacy, as I strive to make a positive change in my own environment as well as for others in my community.
Upon entering the chemistry Ph.D. program at the Scripps Research Institute, I found myself in a department with only a handful of female students and no women faculty members. Since Scripps did not have an organization for women in science, I took the initiative to establish one myself, and thus the Network for Women in Science (NWIS) was born. By the time I stood at the front of a full auditorium and welcomed an audience of nearly one hundred people to our inaugural event, I had succeeded in bringing together a core group of students and faculty advisers whose enthusiasm was central to the sustained viability of the nascent association. I have since overseen the growth of NWIS into a full fledged organization replete with bylaws, elected officers, a website, and financial backing from the graduate program.
My interest in activism has been influenced by my studies in both science and philosophy. As a college freshman I enrolled in a yearlong core philosophy class and was immediately captivated by the subject. My propensity for critically examining ideas often taken for granted was welcomed by my instructors, and I thrived on the heavy writing requirement inherent to philosophy curricula. I read and reread physicist-philospher Thomas Kuhn's seminal book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which so successfully bridged the subjects of philosophy and science that it became a source of inspiration and influenced my thinking across disciplines. In addition, my own independent research in the chemistry department fostered an insight into the daily details of scientific endeavors that informed my philosophical writings.
These observations about subjective influences were pivotal in shaping any appreciation for how demographic distributions within the scientific community, in particular the under-representation of women, impact scientific practices and institutional dynamics. My desire to actively address the under-representation of women in science dates back to college and was precipitated by my experience as one of very few women chemistry majors. I joined the advisory committee of the Stanford Women's Science and Engineering Network (WSEN) and assisted in planning panels, receptions, and lectures by prominent women scientists. Upon assuming the leadership of the association, I initiated a mentorship program aimed at pairing up women undergraduates majoring in scientific disciplines with faculty members in similar fields. As a proponent of mentoring on a multitude of educational levels I also volunteered as a mentor and science tutor for Upward Bound, an organization serving high-school students who are the first in their family to go to college.
My involvement with WSEN and Upward Bound at Stanford and, more recently, with NWIS at Scripps has served to underscore my passion for advocacy and the importance of taking initiative and interacting with different people in order to translate theoretical musings into action.
This, I have found, requires the ability to communicate effectively, as well as a bit of idealism , a whole lot of tenacity, and, to paraphrase philosopher John Rawls, a commitment to regarding others not as means only but as ends in themselves.
These experiences have contributed to my desire to concentrate on a career centered around advocacy and to take an active role in shaping the legal and policy decisions that affect society. I have had a fruitful experience as a scientist, yet I have also become cognizant of the multitude of aspects surrounding our daily lives that are influenced by regulations and policies that hinge upon an understanding of science, from laws regulating the purity of our drinking water to stem cell research. I am excited about pursuing a rigorous legal education and applying my multi-disciplinary background to legal perspective and objectives.