Becoming a Woman in Science: My Hoang

Growing up, adults always asked me “what do you want to be when you are older?”

I always answered, “fashion designer, computer scientist, or small business owner;” simple ideas just to make them satisfied. But I have always admired strong women like Michelle Obama — an intelligent, powerful, and confident leader. I always thought that the idea of me as a self-assured leader was impossible and way too far-fetched. Deep down, I knew that my purpose was not just as simple as a specific career, but had to do with serving and leading others. It began to bother me that I did not know how to get there by myself.

In high school, I was pretty average compared to my fellow classmates. I went to a competitive high school in Silicon Valley where students were spending their entire high school years trying to get into top-UC’s and Ivy Leagues. I have always felt like I wasn’t enough — not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough for the secret goals that I set in my head. When I got lower scores in math and science exams than my friends, I tried not to let it affect me. But it did.

I pushed myself my last year of high school to learn more, not get better grades. When I got my first 5 on the AP Calculus exam, I kept staring at my screen because I thought it was broken. All the hours I spent in study sessions paid off. This was a small accomplishment, but it changed my life by giving me the feeling that I could do anything I set my mind to. By not listening to the voice in my head that said “I would be happy if I just passed.” I just had to stop thinking that it was impossible.

These past two years, I am feeling more knowledgeable about my sense of purpose. Recently I was interviewed for an assistant teacher position by an independent researcher and neuroscientist. He and a systems engineer started teaching robotics and engineering projects to get students interested in STEM. One story particularly touched me; when he was introducing the female systems engineer, a little girl in the back of the room did a little clap and smiled. It is so important for young women to see female role models in STEM, so that they can imagine themselves as an engineer, a scientist, or any career that is primarily dominated by males. I realized that my purpose was to not only work in healthcare, but encourage young women and underprivileged students to pursue a degree in STEM.

That little girl reminded me of why I joined the Women in Science Society. Not only has it made me feel like I was good enough for the goals that I set for myself, it has given me a sense of of purpose. I have seen many determined, incredible, and inspirational women who have encouraged me to become the best version of myself. I know this organization will make a positive impact on other women like me. Even though I am no Michelle Obama, I strive to be a positive role model to the members that I serve.