What are ways to get involved across campus as a graduate student? Gabrielle Scullard, a graduate student studying elliptic curves in the mathematic department in the Eberly College of Science, shared her experiences helping to organize the 2023 Graduate Women in Science national conference this summer as well as some tips for finding inspiration and joining organizations.
Q: What is GWIS?
GS: Scullard described as an organization “devoted to inspiring, empowering, advocating for graduate women in science.” Penn State’s chapter of GWIS was chosen to hold the annual conference. During the three-day conference, members from all over the country present research, attend career sessions and panels, and hear from keynote speakers. This year, Dr. Pamela Harris spoke on finding your community in STEM.
Q: How do you find inspiration and who inspires you?
GS: Looking for people who inspire you and can help you get to where you want to be is extremely important in any field. For Scullard, a woman in science who has inspired her is her undergraduate advisor. She recalled how she pushed her to do better in classes with which she was struggling, giving words of encouragement and holding her accountable. Scullard explained that “She really understood the importance of persevering in a male-dominated field […] and never let me give up on myself.”
Q: How did you become involved as a leader?
GS: When asked to shed light upon getting involved as a grad student, Scullard shared that it isn’t always easy, but said that finding an organization you are interested in, as well as striving for a leadership position within that organization, can be ways to get involved. A leadership position, she explained, can be helpful because “then you have the responsibility and are like, ‘oh I have to do this,’ instead of being able to put it to the side.” This accountability creates priority. “I found GWIS really welcoming to new people and encouraging of new members who want to be involved in leadership positions,” Scullard recalled.
Q: Any advice you have for fellow women in science?
GS: And for young women just beginning their careers in science, Scullard shared that she recommends everyone work to “find your community; find people that support you.” She related this piece of advice to the theme of the conference this year, which was: “Come Together: The Importance of Connection.”
“It can feel so lonely sometimes in science, especially as a woman […] if you can’t find people that look like you or can relate to your experiences,” she said, emphasizing that building your community and connecting in science is crucial, especially to be able to “see people beyond just science.” For her, this helps to humanize others and allows her to feel connected.
“It’s how knowledge happens, and learning happens—talking to people,” she explained.