It’s a common phrase you hear teachers and mentors give students: dress for the job you want, not the job you have. But what effect can this have on young middle and high school students who probably aren’t working or have any idea of what they want to pursue as a career? From personal experience I can tell you that something as simple as a lab coat can have a profound effect on the attitudes that young students have towards science, possibly even shaping the start of a career in STEM.
When I was in middle school I had not even considered a career in science-related fields. I wanted to become a historian like my papa, or maybe a businessman like my dad. It’s not that I didn’t think science was interesting, as I loved the bottle rocket projects, Rube-Goldberg designs, and dissections we were often tasked with. I simply held the feeling that a career in science seemed infeasible for me. My family was not involved in STEM fields and I had always had this strange notion that only the best of the best could become scientists.
My feelings towards science changed in 10th grade when my chemistry teacher gave me the opportunity to go to the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine at UCLA. Still not strongly considering science or medicine at the time, I opted to go, reasoning that two weeks away from home would be two weeks well spent. Little did I know that within those two weeks, my feelings towards science would change, largely due to the fact that I couldn’t get the feeling of wearing a white lab coat during some hospital/laboratory field trips out of my mind. Strangely, the simple act of wearing a lab coat gave me the feeling that a career in something that I thought was so out of reach was actually more attainable than I had originally thought.
Inspired by the belief that I could become a scientist, I took more advanced science courses and worked in a real research lab my senior year (which also gave me the opportunity to wear a lab coat, which I loved). My passion for science continues to this day, as I am currently pursuing a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology with aspirations of becoming a physician.
That singular experience at the medicine forum set me on the path of a STEM related career that I am still passionately pursuing. I am committed to the goal of presenting students with a similar opportunity as mine and to helping them realize that a career in science isn’t as far away as they might have once thought. Project Scifi strives to provide budding scientists, like I was, an opportunity to feel like the scientist they can become because we understand the impact an experience can have. If you share a similar drive, I urge you to check out our website at projectscifi.org and follow us on social media. Thank you for your support!