Sonomi Oyagi is a junior who attends a high school in upstate New York. She is involved in research surrounding the ecology and spread of the invasive species hemimysis anomala, and is interested in pursuing a career in scientific research in the fields of biology and/or neuroscience.
How did you first become involved with STEM?
I have always been interested in the sciences, but my interest in a career in STEM was kickstarted during the summer of 2012. I participated in the Bay Ecology course of a Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer program.
What do you enjoy about science, technology, math, or engineering?
I am deeply fascinated with how ecosystems and organisms function and why they do so. Scientific research allows me to ask questions and pursue answers in a manner that is incredibly fulfilling and, of course, can have implications for the wider world.
What did you think about STEM before you were involved? How have your views changed over time?
Before I became involved in STEM, I had thought that it may not have been for me. I had had the impression that STEM fields were full of extremely focused, intense people (mostly men) who did not have time or room for people who needed space and time to grow and learn and figure out what to do. However, since I have become involved in STEM, I have found that it is an incredibly open field and have found my own extremely supportive community with which I can grow and develop as a researcher.
Have stereotypes ever influenced your view of STEM and what you do? Have you ever encountered any bias due to your gender or another factor?
Sometimes, it feels as though my opinions or research is not respected as much as that of others due to my gender. I have found that some people are surprised at my involvement in STEM, simply on the basis of my sex. Contrarily, however, I have frequently been stereotyped as an "Asian math nerd" due to my multi-ethnic background. Some make assumptions about me and my interests based on my gender, while others make assumptions based on my ethnic background. Both make me extremely uncomfortable and reflect a larger negative phenomena in the world.
Why do you think that more girls should be interested in STEM?
Girls (including everyone who identifies as female) and those who identify as neither male nor female have the capability to achieve just as much as anyone who identifies as a man can. Some are born with certain advantages or disadvantages that make them more or less likely to be willing or able to pursue careers in certain fields. However, I believe everyone should be allowed the proper opportunities to pursue whatever they are interested in. Oftentimes, girls are discouraged from an early age from pursuing anything related to STEM. However, if a culture in which anyone was encouraged to pursue anything was cultivated, I believe more girls would be willing and able to become involved in STEM.
Do you see yourself having a career in a STEM field in the future (if you don't already)? If so, do you have a dream job or company?
I would like to end up as a scientific researcher. I have not decided what specifically I would like to work on yet, but it will likely be involved with either invasive species, cancer biology, neuroscience, or genetics.
Have you created anything that you would like to tell us about?
I have not created anything as of yet, but this summer I am going to be working at Bard to develop an eDNA primer for hemimysis anomala.
What advice do you have for beginners?
Explore! There's no harm in trying new things, and you might stumble upon something that is truly your calling. Life is so full of opportunities, so exploring your options is one of the important first steps you can take in pursuing an interest in anything, including STEM.
If you would like to be featured on the Day of the Girl - US Women in STEM Wednesday Blog, fill out the interview form here.