When Connie Chang was young she didn’t know what she wanted to do. She had three great passions growing up; music, writing, and math. But through her father, who has a traditional chemical engineering background, she was always intrigued by research and science. However, it wasn’t until college where she had an influential mentor who inspired her to study biophysics in graduate school.
So with a new found focus she continued her education at UCLA where she studied soft matter science and the physics of viruses. She then went to Harvard for her postdoctoral studies in the area of experimental soft matter physics. After completing her time at Harvard in 2013 she began her career at Montana State University as an assistant professor in chemical and biological engineering.
I love my job: teaching students, interacting with diverse colleagues, making scientific discoveries, and engaging with the scientific community and the general publicConnie Chang
Connie realized how lucky she was as a little girl to not just have one but two parents in the sciences. Her mother studied agricultural chemistry. Like many girls, Connie knew she wanted a job that helped the world and realized that a STEM career could allow her to make a difference. Unfortunately, Connie only makes up a small percentage of women who realize this career path could fulfill them in that way.
STEM which stands for
These fields represent one of the fastest growing industries in the US. STEM occupations have grown 79% since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million. However, women are still underrepresented in this industry. According to the National Science Board in 2018, women made up almost half of the overall workforce but are only 28% of Science and Engineering jobs. The question is why are more women not entering the STEM world? In a survey done by Microsoft of girls and young women 91% described themselves as creative but only 37% see Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as jobs that involve creativity. It has been proven that when young girls are exposed and mentored by women in a STEM field they are more likely to see that path as an option. Connie understands how important it is to go outside of the classroom and interact with the younger generation.
I am passionate about being a role model for younger women in scienceConnie Chang
She takes her passion and shares it with the girls of Expanding Your Horizons. EYH network began in 1974 as the Math/Science Network. An informal group of women scientists and educators in the San Francisco Bay area who were concerned about the low female participation in Math courses. The program quickly developed the idea of conference programs in which middle and high-school girls participate in hands-on activities in STEM. Each year EYH has around 24,000 girls attend their events and more than 80 conferences each year taking place in 33 states and three countries.
With programs like EYH and Girls for a Change, Connie hopes that we can raise greater awareness of recognizing biases and inequality in higher education. By inviting underrepresented speakers to the conferences to share their stories they are proving to young girls that, yes, there are people who look like them in the STEM fields. To improve women’s numbers in these fields we need to show them that they belong and have a place in these industries.