Meet Mary Carmen, currently a senior at UC Berkeley finishing her degree in Molecular Environmental Biology and set to graduate in May of this year. Mary Carmen is a Girls Inc. of the Island City alumna.
Ever since I can remember, the human body fascinated me. Immediately, I developed an interest in science and medicine, marveling at how complex and largely mysterious biological processes appeared to be. Despite my ongoing passion for exploring biology both inside the classroom and in the field, I struggled to connect with peers who felt the same way until I saw an ad for the Eureka! program in my local newspaper.
I began attending Girls Inc programs at 13, before the real and perceived barriers of a career in STEM were able to discourage me. All throughout high school, I garnered support from friends, family, and teachers to assist me with college counseling and summer internships in STEM. By spending my summers with my cohort of Eureka! girls, I not only made valuable friends, but also fostered confidence in my own abilities to be Strong, Smart, and Bold in everything that I do. From chatting with female scientists, engineers, and business women to learning how to build an architecturally-sound popsicle stick house to shadowing an acupuncturist, the Eureka! program exposed me to a myriad of careers in STEM that I otherwise would never have considered.
Alumna Mary Carmen during her time as a Girls Inc. girl, posing for a picture with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Girls Inc. Memories
Girls Inc. always taught me that I was enough, and that strong women are capable of accomplishing their dreams. Memories of field trips to NASA to speak to female astrophysicists and mentors from my alma mater, UC Berkeley, teaching us lessons in genetics keep me going when my coursework gets tough.
Beyond preparing me intellectually for the critical thinking necessary for STEM, Girls Inc. provided me with extensive mentorship and tangible skills that helped me in my personal and professional lives. Notably, developing a love of public speaking and relaying information onto others sparked my interest in health education, leading me to become a peer health educator. I immediately recognized the value in having been mentored by Girls Inc., as it helped me cultivate a holistic attitude towards managing others and inspiring them to do their best.
Continuing my education is a privilege, and thanks to funding from the Girls Inc. National Scholarship, I was able to save money during my bachelor’s degree to afford to go to Hopkins in the fall. The generosity and kindness of the Girls Inc. community has empowered me to be Strong, Smart, and Bold throughout my entire undergraduate career, despite the challenges that large public research institutions pose to women in STEM.
Where I Am Now
In August, I will begin my graduate program in Global Disease Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins in pursuit of an MSPH (a Master’s of Science in Public Health). I am so excited to continue my education and to join the future ranks of public health professionals. COVID-19 has been a harrowing and humbling experience as a student in the sciences, but as public health officials inform us and help keep us safe, they also inspire us (and especially me) to pursue public health as a professional discipline. Following my Master’s degree, I plan to take the MCAT and apply to medical school, in hopes of becoming an ob/gyn.
I hope to someday inspire a young woman like myself when I am a working professional in public health because I believe in the power of early engagement and exposure to STEM fields for girls.