Celebrating Women in STEM - and the women who inspired them

April Ondis

In honor of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’d like to introduce you to three amazing educators from our Labster Community Campus. Each of these women in science was inspired to pursue a career in STEM by the women educators in their lives. 

Meet Christine DeLorenzo, Gini Lea Ennis, and Nadine Kriska. We hope their stories remind you that your impact on the next generation far outlives the classroom.  

Christine DeLorenzo, PhD

Dr. DeLorenzo is a biomedical engineer focused on medical imaging. She is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and psychiatry and serves as the Director of the Center for Understanding Biology Using Imaging Technology (CUBIT) at Stony Brook University.  

My story

When I started college, I had no experience in science.  Luckily, Dartmouth College had a great Women in Science program. Despite my lack of experience, Xiaoheng Feng, in the Department of Earth Science, accepted me into her lab. 

Even though she was a very busy junior faculty member then, she took the time to mentor me personally. She taught me the science behind all her studies, she explained how to assess accuracy in lab measurements, and she even taught me how to use Excel! 

Amazingly, she trusted me to be a full-fledged lab member.  She allowed me to run my own experiments (after clearing them with her, of course), invited me to lab meetings, and included me in lab strategic planning. I even had my own lab coat! 

I really enjoyed my experience, and although I wound up majoring in Biomedical Engineering and not Earth Sciences, the skills she taught me helped me through my entire career. And, I knew that, if I had my own lab, I wanted the type of inclusive, encouraging lab environment that she worked hard to create.

What makes me proud   

I really enjoy mentoring high school and college students to give them a similar experience to the one that I had.  And it’s thrilling to see them succeed! One of my high school research interns, Samir Betheja, was just named a 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar Top 300 Finalist.

Gini Lea Ennis

Gini Lea Ennis is a high school science teacher at The Savannah Chatham E-Learning Academy. She holds a B.S. Marine Biology, Secondary Broadfield Science (6-12), and is Gifted and Advanced Placement Certified with an Online Teaching Endorsement.

My story

Dr. Sylvia Earle (“Her Deepness”) visited Savannah, Georgia for a lecture and book signing to support her publication “Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans” while I was an undergraduate at Savannah State University in 1995. It was such an inspiration to see and hear Dr. Earle speak of her groundbreaking career and how we can each play a role in ocean conservation. 

She stayed after her lecture and spoke to each of the college students individually about our career plans and wrote personal messages in each book for us to use as encouragement for years to come. 

Dr. Earle wrote that I was a “Kindred Spirit” in the book inscription and that encounter inspired me to overcome the personal obstacles in my life and to continue the pursuit of a career in environmental research and education. 

Soon after that inspirational encounter, I earned a research crew position aboard NOAA R/V Oregon II during an expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. As the only female scientist on that survey mission, I was so thankful for Dr. Earle and all she taught me in her lecture and books.

What makes me proud   

As a Sandy Hook Promise Leader, I have been the advisor for our SCELA Students Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E) since 2020. As a newly Cognia-accredited virtual school, it is challenging to engage students online to ensure their social and emotional learning (SEL) needs are met in this remote educational environment. Sandy Hook Promise has awarded my students and me with sustainability grants for the last two years to assist us in our endeavor to empower student leaders to take an active role in increasing school safety and preventing suicide and different forms of violence in schools and communities. 

Our students are successfully mentoring peers in the virtual environment as a result of their Sandy Hook Promise online training and membership in our Savannah Chatham E-Learning Academy S.A.V.E Promise Club has increased substantially since the inception of our program. As an educator, I am thankful for the support of Sandy Hook Promise!

Nadine Kriska, PhD

Dr. Nadine Kriska holds a PhD in Entomology (taxonomy, systematics, natural history of Coleoptera-beetles). She is a Biology lecturer and lab manager at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater. 

My story

I obtained both my MS & PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, under Dr. Daniel K. Young. The field of beetle taxonomy & systematics has historically been a male-dominated field. 

During the time I was in graduate school, there was a significant increase in women entering the field, obtaining MS and PhD degrees. When I assembled my dissertation committee, I asked Dr. Linda Graham, a professor in the Botany Department, if she would be willing to serve on my committee as the representative for my botany minor. 

Dr. Graham is a world-renowned researcher in the field of algae and plant evolution, and in addition to authoring or co-authoring nearly 200 journal articles, she has helped write several introductory biology textbooks as well as plant biology and algae books. 

She has had such an accomplished career! I admit that at the time, I didn't realize how "big of a deal" she was. What I do remember is how supportive and encouraging she was, genuinely interested in my dissertation topic, taking time to meet with me and give me valuable feedback on my writing during my preliminary examinations and for my dissertation. 

Dr. Graham was a wonderful mentor, in part because she genuinely cared about my success and went out of her way to get to know me and be actively involved with both me and my other committee members. 

The care and support she gave me has carried over into my interactions with undergraduate students who ask to work with me in the lab for research experience and mentorship opportunities. Dr. Graham served as a role model for being a successful women in science, and I am grateful for all of the help and encouragement she provided me. 

What makes me proud   

In spring 2022, I won the university-level Excellence Award for Instructional Academic Staff, which recognizes teaching-based contributions to the university. It was an honor just to have been nominated, much less win, and it serves as a validation that the work I put in to my teaching is appreciated and that I'm a valued member of the university. 

Let your voice be heard! Join the Labster Community Campus to collaborate on our next blog post, case study or educator webinar.

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