February 10th, 2020

By Jordyn Pierre-Raphael

Most little girls like to play dress-up with their dolls, but when I was younger I always treated my dolls as “patients,” who needed my help with a fever or a stuffy nose. I remember that I would wear a lab coat and use my plastic stethoscope to listen to my patients’ heartbeats. At this young age is when I first decided I wanted to become a doctor for the simple reason that I found helping people to be rewarding. In retrospect, I acknowledge my naivety because many occupations involve helping people in one way or another, but my motivations have certainly changed as I have matured and become more interested in the field of science.

In high school, I have developed a passion for science because it challenges me while simultaneously feeds my sense of curiosity. I have taken almost all of the accelerated science courses offered at my school, and my favorite of the many I have taken so far would definitely have to be Experimental Chemistry. It is a semester laboratory intensive course where I was exposed to some of the challenges that must be addressed in moving a chemical reaction from the page to the plant. This course taught me about advanced laboratory techniques for synthesis, purification, and analysis of compounds, including thin layer chromatography, gas chromatography, and UV-Vis spectroscopy, and the hands-on aspect of the course reminded me of my work in the Montclare Lab. I think the most important concept that I learned from the course is how important it is to approach problem-solving with a creative and collaborative mindset, and I have carried these skills with me as I work in the lab because of how pertinent they are.

I feel as though it is important to note that in my Experimental Chemistry class there were twelve students, and I was one of only three girls. This has been a recurring experience for me because almost all of my science classes are male-dominated, which caused me to become used to being interrupted or talked over more times than I could count by my male peers.

After talking with some of my female peers, I realized that we shared similar experiences in our science classes. Many talked about how they avoided participating in class because they feared judgment from their male peers, and this was something I had experienced but worked to overcome because it was stifling my learning experience. This is why I restarted the Women in STEM club at my school because I wanted the girls in my community to have a space where they could feel encouraged to study and then enter STEM fields as well as gain exposure to STEM-related opportunities at school. Over the past year of leading Women in STEM, it has been amazing to see other girls in my community be inspired to join the STEM field by enrolling in my school’s science courses, such as the Independent Science Research program which allowed me to work in the Montclare Lab. The Independent Science Research Program is a three year course at my school in which select high school students are able to pursue a science field of their interest, work in a professional research lab, and participate in science competitions during their junior and senior year. It is more of an experience than a class, in fact, as you are able to gain extensive public speaking practice, gain experience reading professional journal articles, and become knowledgeable about a field that you are passionate about. Few high school students are able to say that they worked in a research lab and gained research experience, and I can definitely say that I cherish the opportunity I have been given because I have been able to work with college graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs who are all so passionate about a field of research. My experience at the Montclare Lab has certainly inspired me to pursue scientific research when I am a college student!


Jordyn Pierre-Raphael