For five women at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories, inspiring girls and women to pursue STEM is an official part-time job. Amy, Mercedes, Harshini, J’Tia, and Jessica are all American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassadors — a program that was started in 2019 to inspire the next generation of women in STEM.
The 125 women selected for this prestigious program received specialized media and communications training, worked with a talent agency, and even had3-D model images taken of them to create statues for an IF/THEN Exhibit.
Join the Conversation!
Follow #WomenTalkSTEM and join the National Girls Collaborative Project and Million Girls Moonshot on March 18 at 3 p.m. EST for the Women in STEM: Spark a Future Twitter chat, featuring inspirational AAAS IF/THEN ambassadors sharing how their work impacts the world, challenges they overcame, and the advice they’d give their 10-year-old selves.
Additionally, check out the IF/THEN Classroom Connection, linking women in STEM to classrooms and nonprofit programs through virtual sessions and digital contnet.
Get to Know our Ambassadors
Dr. Amy Elliott is a group leader in robotics and intelligent systems and manufacturing scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, thanks to “catching the STEM bug” because she participated in FIRST Robotics to get a trip to Florida for the competition. In her IF/THEN statement, Elliott said “I didn’t actually do that well in math in college. I had to repeat several calculus courses, and it wasn’t until I found the right teacher who taught me in the way I could learn that I actually got though those courses.” Read more – or watch her videos – about her STEM journey in her profile here.
Dr. Mercedes Taylor, a research chemist at Sandia National Laboratories, creates new materials to purify water, store energy, and conduct electricity. “I love going to the lab,” Taylor wrote in her IF/THEN profile. “In lab, you have to use your brains, your hands, and all five senses to try to understand chemistry a little better.” Taylor, living on the edge of the Chihuahan Desert in New Mexico, applies her technical skills to the area’s water shortage challenges – work that will have a global impact as scientists predict that a fourth of the Earth will be covered by desert within the next thirty years. Learn more about her work and see video, photos, and her statue here.
Dr. Harshini Mukundan, a team leader and deputy group leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is developing diagnostics tests that can be used in resource-poor regions of the world to help identify infections within minutes. In her IF/THEN profile she shares a story of her infant nephew’s diagnosis with meningitis, a decade ago, and how this drove her career path. The viral form of the disease is self-limiting, but the bacterial form can be fatal a in robotics and intelligent systems nd requires intense treatments. “Imagine the stress my family endured when the doctors informed us there was no quick way of determining whether the infection was bacterial or viral,” she wrote. “The whole episode left me unsettled …” Read more of her story and see her photos and video in her profile here.
Dr. J’Tia Hart is a nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory, a former contestant on CBS’ Survivor, a mom, and a past briefer to Secretaries of Energy. Dr. Hart’s IF/THEN profile reads “growing up, I wanted desperately to fit in – to be smart, girly, and most of all cool. Now, I understand that I am cool. I am meant to stand out. I will redefine what it is to be Black, smart, and girly. My path involved embracing STEM and becoming a nuclear engineer.” Read more and see her videos and statue image in her profile here.
Dr. Jessica Esquivel is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Fermilab in Illinois. As she shared in her IF/THEN profile, “… I learned then that while physics amazed me, the road to be a physicist was going to be one with naysayers, non-believers, and barriers. I’d have to be stubborn, which is great because my mom raised a very stubborn woman. She taught my sister [and I] we could do anything a man could and not to let anyone tell us [we] couldn’t!” Read more in her profile here and see her video and statue image.
Want to see more stories of women in STEM at the Department of Energy, or learn about our programs and resources for engaging more girls in STEM? Visit www.energy.gov/women