According to the U.S. Department of Labor, America will need three million more scientists and engineers by 2018. Girl Scouts of NW Kansas & NW Missouri is working hard to cultivate girls to populate those STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, and we are proud to send one out into the professional field, come 2018.
This past week Anastasia Weston, Girl Scout Alumna from Olathe, Kansas was awarded a STEMMY Student Scholarship Award from the Central Exchange in Kansas City for her accomplishments and aspirations in the area scientific research.
We know that Anastasia, has a bright future ahead of her in STEM, because she has already been blazing her path since the first time her Girl Scout troop leader introduced her to this exciting field.
As a first year student at Kansas State University, Anastasia is majoring in Biology and minoring in leadership and she credits Girl Scouts, and her mother, for fostering her love of science and empowering her to pursue a career in a traditionally male dominated field.
Nine years ago, when she was in 6th grade, Anastasia’s Girl Scout troop attended an Aerospace and Engineering day camp at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. There were more than 400 Scouts in attendance, Boy Scouts that is. Anastasia’s troop accounted for the whopping 13 females that participated in the camp that day. “It was really empowering to be there and to say this isn’t just a boy thing, it’s a girl thing too,” Anastasia said.
That experience just might have been what she needed to show her that’s its ok to be interested in things that are stereotypically geared towards boys.
Fast forward six years to her junior year of High School. Anastasia knew that she wanted more hands-on science experiences, so she took charge and went out looking for them. Her AP Biology teacher, Mr. Ralph, put her in contact with the research lab at the University of Kansas and Dr. John Kelly. After meeting with Dr. Kelly, Anastasia began working on an independent research project that she would share with her Biotech Club at Olathe East High School (of which she was the only female member and the leader of the group).
The project was tedious, studying gene variance of stomata density on the Mimulus Guttatus plant, or the Yellow Monkey Flower, in layman’s terms. She spent hours a day counting the hairs on the plant while carefully documenting her findings. After a year and a half on the project, Anastasia has passed the project on to one of her male teammates in the Biotech Club.
“I was getting an experience that a lot of graduate students haven’t even had. There are all these little details I was learning that they don’t teach you in school. It was neat to experience the stuff without the pressure of doing it right or wrong, just being able to see it and understand it and really figure out the whole process of ‘real science’ compared to ‘school science.’”
Anastasia’s unconventional experience as a high school student learning in a university research lab was so successful that there is potential for the National Science Foundation to pilot similar programs around the nation.
“Do what you want to do, and don’t let a gender barrier stop you or fear of being the only girl, or the word bossy. Being the Biotech leader, I felt that I was being bossy. I really pushed a lot of the boys to get things done. I think if society didn’t stereotype powerful, responsible, leading women as being bossy I wouldn’t have been so self-conscious and I could have pushed them even further.”
Did we mention that Anastasia has also earned her Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards as well as two scholarships, K-State Outstanding Student in Mathematics and Science award and the Faculty Science Department Award?
We can’t wait to see Anastasia realize her dreams.