12 July 2016
In a bid to attract more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, the New York Academy of Sciences’ Global STEM Alliance recently set up 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures – an innovative new mentorship program that pairs enthusiastic high school students with mentors working in a STEM field. The program was launched in 2015, and is now inviting applications from willing mentors for 2016, its second year.
Yu Shen (Shelley) Yin, a graduate student in the final year of her neuroscience PhD at Garvan and the University of Sydney, has been participating in the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program as a mentor.
Shelley says, “When I saw 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures advertised on Twitter last year, I was immediately keen to apply. As an undergraduate student at the University of Sydney, I benefited from having a wonderful mentor, so I knew it was a role in which I could really make a difference.”
Shelley knows how important having a mentor can be. “My own mentor as an undergrad was Rushika Wirasinha, then a PhD student here at Garvan. Being mentored by Rushika was pivotal for me – I knew I was interested in neuroscience but I didn’t have a clear sense of how to go about making my aspirations a reality. Rushika, who is now a researcher at Monash University, helped me through that – and today I’m a PhD student at Garvan just as she was.”
Within the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program, Shelley was paired with a 16-year-old high school student in the USA. The program’s comprehensive application process means that mentors and mentees are carefully matched according to the mentee’s interests and what she hopes to get from the program.
Shelley and her mentee usually chat online once a fortnight.
Shelley says, “My mentee is very ambitious, very bright and very determined. And we have a lot in common – no one in her family has been through higher education, so I’ve been able to give her insight into what it’s like to leave home to attend university, that sort of thing.
“We also talk about time management, exam preparation and a whole range of other things.
“The mentoring experience has been hugely enjoyable and rewarding, and it has been humbling to see how my mentee has developed as a young adult and grown in confidence throughout the program.”
Through experiences of being both a mentee and a mentor, Shelley understands how powerful an influence such programs can have on young people in need of guidance. Shelley has signed up for 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures again this coming year and encourages others to do the same.
If you’re a female scientist who would like to apply to be part of the program, visit the 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures website. Applications close 18th July, with the 2016-2017 program beginning in October.