Empowering Tomorrow's Innovators: RWU Celebrates Women in STEM Week

Panel of experts, featuring RWU professors and an alumna, share their advice and experiences as women working in STEM fields with current students

By Grace Boland
Panelist smile with attending students
Panelists and students who were a part of the Women in STEM panel event.

BRISTOL, R.I. – During Roger Williams University’s celebration of Women in STEM Week, female scientists, mathematicians, and innovators gathered for a series of events to break down barriers and stereotypes and promote gender equality in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, all while encouraging more female students to pursue careers in STEM. 

Women in STEM Week took place March 4-8 and included a panel of experts featuring women working in STEM fields, a “Wakanda” movie night, a Destress Night event complete with fun science experiments, and a trivia night. The week was hosted by RWU’s Science Alliance, Women in Engineering, Women of Color Club, Marine Science Club, Forensic Science Club, Scuba Club, Multicultural STEM Alliance, and Professor of Biology Marcie Marston, Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Burtner, and Professor of Chemistry Stephen O’Shea.

Speaking to a crowd of RWU students, the Women in STEM panelists offered their advice and insights as women working in STEM fields and reflected on their shared experiences. Panelists included Karla-Sue Marriott, Professor and Director of RWU’s Forensic Science program; Victoria Heimer-McGinn, Assistant Professor of Psychology at RWU; Shira Dunsiger, an adjunct professor of Mathematics at RWU and an associate professor at Brown University; Eden Ladouceur ’23, an orthodontic assistant who will attend dental school this fall; and two Ph.D. students at Brown University, Riley Havel and Hannah Shabtian.  

Senior Carly Ferreira, President of the Science Alliance prompts the panelists with questions to start the conversation. 

Senior Carly Ferreira, President of the Science Alliance, emceed the panel. With a nod to the trailblazers who had come before them, Ferreira began the event by honoring the pioneers of women in STEM including Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree, and Mae C. Jemison, the first African American woman to go to space. 

“It wasn't long ago that women finally got our foot in the door, so it's exciting that you're all here today to share your experiences,” said Ferreira, a Chemistry major from Bristol, R.I.

Ferreira asked the panelists what words of wisdom they would offer to women embarking on careers in STEM. Drawing on their personal experiences, here is the advice they shared: 

  • "You are not alone. Whatever field you go into, there is going to be at least one woman who has done it. Your agenda is not defined," said Ladouceur, who majored in Forensic Science and double minored in Psychology and Chemistry at RWU.
  • Put yourself in an environment that will ensure your success, said Heimer-McGinn. "Build your environment so that you will feel your best, including having a good mentor. By touring grad schools or interviewing for jobs, you can select the environment that will work best for you."
  • Dunsiger told students to make sure they enjoy the work they are doing. "Sometimes in our field, you can get caught up. It is important to remind yourself of the joy of it," she said. "It will motivate you to keep going. Find the joy, find the fun, or find whatever it is that makes you happy."
  • Marriott's advice is to remember to help other women along the way. "It's hardwired in us to think a certain way and to get approval from certain people, but once you are in a position to help others, be a mentor, get involved in the community, and amplify women's voices," she said.

Women in STEM Week was a testament to the power and impact that women have had in these fields, Ferreira said. “The conversations that were had needed to happen and be heard,” she said. “I’m so glad we got to have them all together.”