Sleeping Beauty and The Cursed Code began with a mission: create more early childhood role models in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Young girls are looking for spaces where they will be welcome and we want them to know that these fields welcome them!
Telling the stories of women in STEM fields is so important because it can inspire the next generation of girls that are willing to use their intellect to change the world.
Scroll down to read the interviews with our first female STEM heroes.
If you think you and your work would make a great STEM feature please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Eva Papp
What is your job title: Founder, Owner The School of Dae Nova
What did you study in college: Psychology/Philosophy
What interested you about psychotherapy: Two things: understanding how people work, and two, understanding how to help people become happier and more fulfilled in their lives.
What were some of your most memorable experiences as a psychotherapist: When I was in college and learning psychology, I realized that most of what I was learning originated out of Europe, and really reflected a European history of ideas about humans and what’s needed for happiness. But of course that’s just one set of ideas, or way of looking at things.
Because I was trying to understand people in a way that was deeper than just culture, I knew I had to expose myself to ideas and experiences outside of what I was being taught in school.
So when I went to graduate school and formally undertook the study of psychology to be a psychotherapist, I knew I wanted to do my own field research in a far off place that had less exposure to Western ideas. So I put together an independent study and went to live in Siberia for a semester. I decided to learn what I could about people and wellness from some traditional healers there, healers which are called Shamans.
Lots of different scientific fields use field research to explore ideas and concepts and gather data. In this way I was following a long and exciting tradition of scientific research.
I learned many new things and had many new experiences while in Tuva, Siberia, lots that had nothing to do with my research but were super fun anyway.
Like that I could survive in minus 70 degree weather, that playgrounds could be made of ice and snow - think super slides - and could be improved upon every year, that I could manage to eat sheep intestines, but could not manage to eat Yak meat without getting sick, that there are matches that could be lit in wet and snow - think covered with a thin film of wax - and that I could become super close to people even though we didn’t speak the same language.
The Tuvans, the people I lived with, understood several factors to be essential to wellbeing:
1. Wellbeing comes from your relationship with your family, and not just your immediate family, but the ancestors in your family. If something went wrong back somewhere with great-grandpa Kenin, it will have an impact on you even now. Actually we also acknowledge this in Western psychology.
2. Wellbeing comes from your relationship with the natural world. If you’re out of step with nature, the natural cycle of things and with the nature around you, it will be difficult to be in a healthy place. Western psychology only incidentally considers the health of nature to the health of humans, but if you think about it, you can see the relationship. Studying this connection, and using nature as a healing modality is growing in Western practice.
3. Wellness comes from your relationship to the spiritual world. Now when I say this, you have to remember that Tuva is a shamanic culture, and their idea of the spiritual world is perhaps very different than yours. But it’s an acknowledgement that humans are not alone in the Universe, and that your connection to your spiritual side is important for wellbeing, however you express your spiritual side. Most of psychology acknowledges that spirituality can be a significant source of support in a person’s life, and some forms of psychology center their work around this idea.
They also believe that every element of nature has a spirit, and that you have to be very respectful of nature because of this. For instance, you wouldn’t just pick up a stone and skip it into the river. They believed the stone was lying where it was because it wanted to be there and of course had a right to continue lying there.
Why did you decide to create your own school?: After practicing psychology for 20 years I discovered that most everyone was missing the same set of information. Not knowing this information was creating lots of problems for people. After sharing this information with people individually, I decided it was time to put it all together and create a course I could teach many people at once.
What is the mission of your school: The mission of the School is really to share the missing tools and strategies women need to discover who they are and the power that comes from knowing who you are and acting from that truth. While these tools and strategies work for anyone, I really decided to focus on sharing them with women because it just feels like things are out of balance between the opportunities for women and men right now, and women just need some more supports to get things balanced again.
What made you nervous about creating your own school:
I think when you set out to do anything that feels big, it’s natural to also feel nervous. I was nervous when I went to Siberia, and I’ve been nervous starting my School. “What if it won’t work?” is always a thought that comes up. That’s natural too, cause you don’t know if it will work until it works. And until it works, you have to have some faith in yourself and your project.
What do you think the next generation of young girls needs to hear:
If you have an idea or a dream, it’s important to find other people who support it. It’s hard to pull of something totally on your own. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and your ideas. They will help you.
What advice do you have for girls that don’t feel smart enough:
Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a unique brilliance, something you’re particularly good at, and doing it makes you happy. Your job in life is to find out what it is. What gets you excited, what inspires you, what are you particularly good at even without much effort? That’s the place to start looking for your brilliance.
Is it easy for you to be with people, or to be alone, do you like to scrapbook, do you remember things, do others rely on you for something you that like doing? What do you do in your spare time just for fun? This is how I knew I should become a psychotherapist, because I was always reading about people and the way the mind works - just for fun. And because I followed what was fun for me, being a psychotherapist has never felt like work.
You too have a unique brilliance. Find out what it is and others who appreciate it. That’s a great start to a great life.
What is your job title:
Founder and CEO of Scrub & Throw, LLC
What did you study in college:
I received a BA in English Language and Literature with a concentration in creative writing from College of the Holy Cross and a MS in Publishing from New York University.
Why did you start your own business:
When my daughter, Emma, was a baby and just starting solids, I found myself in my kitchen cleaning… a lot! Somehow she was more of a “splatterer” than my son, Liam, had been. I was always scrubbing down her highchair tray, bottles, sippy cups, baby spoons, baby bowls, heck I even found myself scrubbing smooshed peas off of the ceiling a few times. I guess you could say that during those days I was pretty much one with my sponge! Then one day, as I was scrubbing away, I became hyper-aware of the little blue particles that were falling off of the scrub sponge and onto Emma’s heavily, admittedly obsessively, researched BPA free, stainless steel assorted dinner and drinkware. It prompted me to do a quick google search regarding the toxicity of scrub sponges, including many of the ones that claim to be “all-natural.” In a matter of moments, I was nothing short of horrified. Those little blue pieces were chemical-laden microplastics. Here I was springing for the $7 organic blueberries and the $20.00 MaraNatha organic, raw almond butter that I would legitimately hide from my husband because every time he’d see it he’d start in with the whole “it’s the almond butter or their college” routine and I was wiping down the very surfaces that I placed those pure little baby foods on with so many super disturbing sponge chemicals. Chemicals, and plastics too actually, that are not only horrible for our homes and bodies but also for our landfills, oceans and wildlife. My scrub sponge got tossed in the trash that day and I vowed never to buy one again. For a few days, I really enjoyed not having a dirty sponge perched atop my kitchen sink. It’s such a disgusting eyesore and I was happy to be rid of it! But, after 48 hours or so of washing dishes with my bare hands, I found myself needing that darn scrub sponge! So, I got to thinking. Why do we keep a dirty sponge around? Why aren’t we cleaning with something that’s clean? What if we could have a truly safe, truly non-toxic scrub sponge that we could throw away at the end of each day? And, it would have to be 100% biodegradable of course. What if I could solve the gross sponge problem for our homes and our planet? And then, drumroll, I did nothing. My babies were 0 and 2 and I was in the weeds. But now they are 5 and 7 and this magical, safe, effective and tossable scrub sponge that I’ve been dreaming about for 5 years is here. I’ve made it! And, I’m so excited to share it with the world!
What went into your design and engineering process for the scrub and throw sponge?:
So much research and so many exciting steps!
I researched and tested every possible eco-friendly material and every possible size.
I wanted a material that was strong and durable enough to tackle all of the dirty jobs a sponge must endure and also entirely all natural/non-toxic, 100% biodegradable/compostable, and completely renewable/plant based.
For the size, I wanted it to be exactly what you needed to get the job done and nothing more. I tested countless sizes. I settled on just about the size of a half of a regular sponge. I wanted my sponge to be built to work great and priced and sized to throw away.
My scrub sponge surely isn’t winning any beauty pageants. But, it works hard, gets the job done, and you can throw it away guilt-free!
How do you hope your work can better the world:
Everyone knows that sponges are disgusting and can harbor seriously dangerous bacteria and pathogens. It makes no sense for us to be cleaning our dishes, countertops, high-chair trays, bathtubs and more with the filthiest item in our home.
But what everyone might not know is that most scrub sponges, even many that claim to be environmentally friendly, are pesticide-soaked, made with oil, release microplastics right down your kitchen drain into the ocean, and fill our landfills with nylon, polyester, foam and many more man-made wastes that will remain there forever.
Scrub & Throw scrub sponges do the same job as your traditional scrub sponge and create zero waste. They biodegrade in about 30 days, are made entirely of loofah (which is a vegetable), require zero oil for production, are a renewable resource, contain zero plastics, glues, dyes, pesticides, detergents, antimicrobials, or chemicals of any kinds. And, they're vegan-- did you know that some natural sponges are made from once-living sea creatures?!? Scrub and Throw scrub sponges deliver guilt-free scrubbing at its finest.
Do you have some fun/ weird facts related to your field:
Want to know why your sponge stinks? A bacteria called moraxella... the culprit behind ear and sinus infections! Yuck!
Research has shown that kitchen sponges may contain more active bacteria than anywhere else in the house, including the toilet!
Research has also shown that sponges may contain pathogenic bacteria, like E. coli and salmonella, that can lead to disease.
What excites you about your field:
I believe that a little change can make a big difference. I’m excited to give everyone the chance to make a little change that will make their homes and our planet cleaner and safer.
What preconceptions if any did you have about starting your own company:
I always knew that I wanted to start my own company and I always knew that I wanted it to be one that would make a positive impact on our world. I was nervous, of course. That comes with wanting something so badly. But, the excitement and the deep desire to truly make a difference for our homes and for our planet helped me push past those nerves! That same excitement and deep desire to truly make a difference is what helps me stay awake when I’m still working at 3 AM!
One preconception that I had turned out to be very true. It’s very hard to snap out of work mode! This company is my third baby and it is on my mind a lot! I’m always thinking of funny Instagram posts or tik-tok videos. I’ll be mid-conversation with someone and catch myself drifting off and writing lyrics to a tik-tok spoof on Spice Girls If You Wanna Be My Lover (my version, btw, is going to be called If You Wanna Be My Scrubber)! Every day, I’m honing my compartmentalization skills. I want to remain present in all aspects of my life and that is an ongoing challenge.
What are some of your proudest moments/ greatest achievements in your work:
The week before I launched my company, I sat my 7 year old son, Liam, and my 5 year old daughter, Emma, down to what would become our very first business meeting. I explained to them what I had been working on and proudly showed them my website and my scrub sponges. I explained to them that our little scrub sponges could make a very big difference for our landfills and oceans and all of the living creatures on our earth… including us! They were beaming with pride and excitement. Then, I asked them if they would like to be a part of Scrub & Throw’s journey. So, they each invested $20 of some combination of toothy-fairy and easter bunny money and got to work. Liam quickly showed goal-setting strengths and became my CFO. He gives me weekly sales and Instagram follower targets and I am not lying when I tell you that I am up late working as hard as humanly possible to not let him down. Emma is my artist. She has been tremendously insightful on the color and design of my Instagram posts and ads from my digital campaign. She has become my CMO. My children are learning the ins and outs of launching a start-up right alongside of me. But, most importantly, they are learning that with hard work and perseverance, you can be anything you want to be in this world.
What do you think the next generation of young girls needs to hear:
Exactly what I’ve whispered to my daughter every single evening when I’ve put her to bed since the time that she was 2: you can be anything that you want to be in this world.
What fields would you recommend young girls pursue:
Any and all fields!!!!
Name: Aimee Coulter-Parkhill.
What is your job title: A PhD diabetes researcher.
What did you study in college: I completed my degree in Biomedical science.
Why did a STEM career appeal to you: The Big Bang Theory TV show really inspired me as a
teenager to work in STEM. Amy the neuroscientist was my hero and biggest inspiration.
What made you nervous about your field: Math and calculations.
What excites you about your field: That science can really make a difference to real people.
What do you want to see more of in your field:
What are some of your proudest moments/ greatest achievements in your work: My research
reached 94 million people through the news and radio after I presented at a conference.
What do you think the next generation of young girls needs to hear: Science is for everyone;
boys and girls. When you struggle with some work, keep studying and apply yourself and you
can really make it in the science field. Don’t let one bad test score demotivate you, use that as
your inspiration to try harder.
What fields would you recommend young girls pursue: Any of the fields, you are capable of
more than you know.
What was your favorite activity as a child: I loved reading and watching Harry Potter.
Who helped you: My Mum and Dad were so supportive and helpful. They always motivated me
to try harder and keep working.
How do you hope the future work of young girls can better the world: Girls are strong and
empowered, and often underestimated. We could conquer the world if we wanted to!
What advice do you have for young girls that feel math and science isn’t for them: Always
remember that science is for everyone! It’s fun, interesting and always changing. Science can
make a difference in the world and you could be apart of that amazing field.
What advice do you have for girls that don’t feel smart enough: Everyone is smart in their own
way. Don’t be disheartened. Keep reading and keep learning and you will get there. I promise.
Do you have a favorite book from when you were a child: Harry Potter.
Do you have a fun/ weird fact related to your field:
Venom is milked from a tarantula via a mild electroshock (thankfully I don't have to do this part). We are able then to take this venom and run it in a machine which separates this venom based on the size of the compounds. With these compounds we can then test it in the lab to see if it has any therapeutic potential. As my research is diabetes based, I test the compounds on insulin secretion and proliferation and try to identify a mechanism of action. Venom is such an interesting topic because there are millions of compounds in venom which could be used as therapeutics for humans.
If you had a daughter what would you want her to know: You got this.
What did you study in college: BA Chemistry, BS Biology
Do you have a fun/ weird fact related to your field: Hydrogen was made in the big bang, and the light atoms were made in start, and heavier atoms were made when stars die and explode,, so you are in fact made of stardust! Also there are only so many atoms on Earth, so the atoms that make up you, used to be part of other things, like the dinosaurs, other people, rocks, etc. In fact the chances that you will breathe an atom that was once breathed by Leonardo DiVinci is pretty good…(or in fact any human in the past). Oh and not chem but bio...you were once in your maternal grandmother...when your mother was a baby growing inside your grandmother, her eggs were developing, and in fact they were fully developed by the time she was born. So the egg that made you, was once in your mom, when she was in her mom’s womb...means we are kind of older than we think (my mom was born in 1953...so the egg that eventually produced me was made in 1953...no wonder my back hurts!!)
Why did a STEM career appeal to you: I enjoyed science since I was a child, and did well in science classes in school. I like the logical side of it. That one thing seemed to flow from another and it made the world around us make sense.
What made you nervous about your field: I was shy in high school, so I never thought being a teacher would be a good fit, but as I got older, and went through college, I found that I was much more comfortable talking to people. When I was a new teacher, I was intimidated when talking to parents and confronting students about their behavior. As I became more confident, I was less nervous about those aspects of the job.
What excites you about your field: Seeing students achieve more than they thought they could or when my students go on to STEM fields themselves.
What do you want to see more of in your field: Certainly more women going into STEM education...I am the only female science teacher in my school, and have been for most of my career. I can only imagine that not seeing many women scientists has a cascading effect on female students not envisioning themselves as scientists themselves.
What preconceptions if any about work in STEM did you have: While science is certainly a huge part of being a science teacher, the interpersonal relationships and educational theory is more important. If I had to choose between being a scientist, or teacher, I would choose a teacher. I always thought that my teachers were super experts in their area, but the best teachers are experts at teaching and knowing how to reach students. Someone who is very knowledgeable about chemistry is not necessarily a good chemistry teacher, and oftentimes, not a very good chemistry teacher, if they themselves have not had to struggle through the content or had to approach problems from different ways.
What fields would you recommend young girls pursue: I try and encourage everyone to pursue careers that do good in the world. I don’t think that many HS students think about their future and hope that they have a job that basically makes rich people richer, but then when they are 30...that is actually what many of them have fallen into.
How do you hope the future work of young girls can better the world: In the field of environmental science and solving larger problems like global climate change, income inequality, food insecurity etc.
How do you hope your work can better the world: I have begun teaching environmental science here, and recently AP environmental science. While basic and fundamental science is important, I think that students should leave high school with a good understanding of the fate of our planet. I hope that my work in education will inspire some to go into the field and make a difference in their adult lives.
What are some of your proudest moments/ greatest achievements in your work: I am always proud when students come back and report that they learned alot in my class, especially when they struggled through the class. I am also proud to be well respected by my colleagues.
What advice do you wish you received as a young girl considering career options: In general, that your choice of career doesn’t really have any connection to what makes you happy. Doing what you like makes you happy, so if you don’t like being a doctor, don’t be a doctor (that is what I had to learn). You have to let go of others expectations for you and make your own path. Also, practical things, a pension is far better than a 401K and benefits are just as important as salary.
What has surprised you about being a woman in a STEM field: I thought that maybe, being around fellow scientists, there would be less of a focus on gender roles, but that is not the case. If we are in a mtg, and someone has to take notes, I am always the default note taker, or secretary. I have had to push back on those types of roles. I gave up coordinating the science fair since I felt as though I was doing clerical work mostly.
What obstacles did you face in your career: In the beginning, I faced a good amount of challenges from parents and teachers as to my authority and knowledge. Was it due to my gender or my age...not sure...I started at the same time as another, male science teacher, and I don’t think he went through the difficulty I did the first few years. I actually started my career as a math teacher as a less wealthy district and did not have any of the issues I had here. The general lack of respect for “just teachers” was palpable.
Who helped you: My principal and my mentor, the other chemistry teacher. They were vocal and stood up for me with parents and students.
Who doubted you? What did that feel like: Both parents and students (and certainly these were the outliers, most of the parents and students I dealt with were supportive and welcoming). It felt a bit demoralizing, but then I heard stories from other teachers, and how this was quite common in younger teachers and soon I will have built my reputations and be over this phase, and they were correct.
What do you think the next generation of young girls needs to hear: The false idea that men are better at science has been perpetuated by men, so don’t believe it. Being unique is amazing and sought after in the real world, even though it is often discouraged in adolescence.
What advice do you have for young girls that feel math and science isn’t for them: First to question why they think that...what evidence do they have to back up that claim. I would also challenge what their idea of science is..typical “female” roles such as cooking is actually science. Raising children is basically psychology. Running a house, managing the bills...thats all math...
What advice do you have for girls that don’t feel smart enough: Challenge the idea of smart and enough… if someone seems naturally smart, it just typically means that they haven’t been challenged yet. Comparing yourself to others is a losing sport. You will always seem to run slow compared to a cheetah, but you run super fast compared to an ant...and at the end of the day does that matter. What matters is that you are trying to be better than you were tomorrow and the world is a better place for you being a part of it.
What is some bad advice you received as a child: I don’t really remember getting much advice as a child. My family were not academics, and didn’t go to college, so they were not really in the same circles as me growing up. I heard lots of “don’t pay attention to what others say about you” but not really how to do that...honestly...a teacher told me once to try and calm down my Boston accent to be taken more seriously...and that may not be really cool these days...it honestly was good advice...people do judge you on how you present yourself...for right or wrong...so put your best foot forward.
How did you stick out on a STEM path when things got academically challenging: By that time, there was no turning back...I had already carved my self identity as being a math and science person...plus even thought it was hard...I didn’t like anything else...and even in highschool I know that was more important than good grades. I did very well in history and theology in college, and I found it interesting...but like watching a documentary on TV is interesting, not making a career out of it. I enjoy struggling through difficult material that I enjoy and feeling a great sense of accomplishment after.
What is the most fun you’ve ever had at work: Laughing with students and colleagues!! Just goofing around or traveling with students and seeing new places through their eyes.
Who are some of your heroes? Why: People in my life who have devoted their lives to selflessly helping others. My first year out of college participated in a volunteer program in Chicago and I lived with a group of catholic nuns. These women had a singular focus of always benign of service. They were not judgmental, and lived lives that others only talk about.
What was your favorite activity as a child: Dancing, and exploring the woods behind my house. I also enjoyed traveling and going to museums with my father.
Do you have a favorite book from when you were a child: Anne of Green Gables was really the first book I remember reading for fun and really enjoying. It reminded me of my grandmothers’ place on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia
If you had a daughter what would you want her to know: There are no “right or wrong” choices, only choices and results from those choices. Don’t worry too much about making the wrong decisions, that concept is something that was created to scare us into fitting into the molds others created for us...make others happy and everything else will fall into place.