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Women in STEM

Elaine Loft
Last spring, Ashley Hardner ‘23 took the first step to forming a new club at Derryfield. She approached science department chair, Mary Ann Watt, about being the faculty advisor for Derryfield students who were interested in connecting with women in STEM careers. Watt agreed, and Elena Moore ‘23, who had expressed a similar interest, joined in the effort. The two students made plans over the summer, and launched Women in STEM at Derryfield’s annual fall club fair. 

To date, the club, which has twenty members, has gathered one or two times before each guest speaker makes their (virtual)presentation to formulate questions. Hardner notes: “It was difficult getting the club started up at the beginning of the year due to the conflicting schedules of other clubs.” However, Hardner says they hope to become a “more frequent meeting club, where people can really feel like they are part of something at the end of the year.”  

On February 24, the club hosted Dr. Lynn Ewart, who oversees the science and technology (S&T) research and S&T community of the Undersea Warfare Combat Systems Department at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, Rhode Island. She is also the Executive Chair for The Technical Cooperation Program’s Artificial Intelligence Strategic Challenge. Her engineering degrees in materials science are from Brown University: Ph.D. in 1990, M.S. in 1986, and B.S. in 1985. Dr. Ewart was honored as the 2009 Rhode Island Woman of the Year for Science and Technology.  

Dr. Ewart’s Zoom presentation was based upon the questions the Women in STEM club had submitted beforehand. She began by talking about her educational path, noting she was not dedicated to STEM in high school, although she did take an introductory engineering class (through Case Western University) during her junior year. Ewart said she chose to go to Brown because she wanted a broad, liberal arts education. While at Brown she sought summer jobs and school-year jobs with her professors. Eventually, work with one professor led her to continue for her M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science.

After moving through a discussion of her career, Dr. Ewart offered advice to the STEM club: sample broadly; don’t stay in a position because of loyalty to your project, if that project is not right for you; don’t stay on a team because of loyalty to your colleagues, as colleagues come and go; finally, if you are interested in moving into a new area or project, let people know you are interested.

Dr. Ewart concluded her presentation by answering questions about the number of women in STEM careers and how women in technical careers view themselves differently than their male colleagues. The club members chatted after the meeting about lessons learned and topics for further discussion.
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