We are so excited to announce the recipients of our 2022 Women in Technology Scholarship, Catherine Consiglio (majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Shaily Pal (majoring in Biomedical Engineering). These outstanding women will each be awarded $1000 for education-related expenses. Applicants were asked to write an essay about a time a belief of theirs was challenged. Read the winning essays below:
Cranston, Rhode Island is a place deep rooted in legacy and tradition. From its annual summer feast to thanksgiving football game, Cranston’s residents pride themselves on the traditions that outlive the city’s individuals. However, being a resident for over 19 years of my life, I have found this value of tradition to be one I have grown to have a love-hate relationship with.
I entered high school as an art kid with my sights set on canvases, charcoal, and acrylics. However, by September of my sophomore year, I found myself standing in the pre-engineering lab of the Cranston Area Career and Technical Center with interest that rivaled my artistic drive. After enrolling in the program and spending nine months prototyping with transistors, coding five axis robots, and studying the nature of capacitance, I fell in love with engineering and the impact it has on everything from groundbreaking medical research to everyday technologies.
However, at the end of those nine months, I was asked to choose either art or engineering. Despite the many years that the art and pre-engineering programs coexisted, students were not presented with a path that accommodates a nontraditional intersection of interests. With the school’s scheduling advice also deep rooted in tradition, I was discouraged at the thought of having to sacrifice one of these interests. I reflected on the benefits that pursuing art and engineering simultaneously had presented me with. I was pushed to be more of a nonlinear thinker. Being an artist made me a better engineer.
I took a look at the two traditional schedules laid out in front of me and dismissed them from my mind. Instead, I began researching different ways to get courses accomplished outside of the typical 8am-2pm school day. From US history classes at community college, to self-taught trigonometry, to asynchronous online psychology classes, I made my own schedule that broke the traditional path laid out in front of me.
When I walked across the graduation stage in June 2021 as the only student to graduate in both the AP Visual Arts Program and Career and Technical Program, I was proud. Carrying more importance than any GPA or award, I carried the pride of having taken matters into my own hands and broke tradition for something I believed in. More importantly, aside from creating this path for myself, I created it with the inkling of making it a “traditional” schedule of its own for the next person to walk through the door having interests whose combination is deeded nontraditional.
My little brother’s blue room sparkled with building blocks, model airplanes, and miniature dinosaurs. My purple room contained barbies, bracelet kits, and “My Little Pony” stuffed animals. As a child, my brother’s room became a manifestation of my dreams, as I beamed over his Lego sets and fantasized about what I could build with them. I envisioned people, houses, cities, and more; my 7-year-old mind exploded with possibilities. Each birthday, I asked for a Lego set, and each birthday, I received pink hair brushes and nail polish sets from family friends. My parents, perhaps unintentionally, pushed me away from Legos, from building, from imagining. I began believing that the concept of engineering, though I was unfamiliar with the term at the time, existed as a “male subject.” Until high school, I veered away from engineering, design, and STEM, as my parents pushed my brother toward those very subjects. I deemed STEM a male-dominated field, fearing that I would never belong. Instead, I explored English and music, studying Shakespeare to Tchaikovsky.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed dissecting sonnets and practicing passages, high school only amplified my interests in engineering and STEM. Pig dissections in biology class, acid-base titrations in chemistry class, and sequence and series discussions in calculus class revitalized me. I felt rushes of adrenaline after solving physics problems and optimizing lab designs. The encouragement I craved became a reality, as my teachers stayed over class time to ponder potential chemical reactions or chat about practical applications of calculus with me. I had finally found acceptance through mentors and friends.
By finding mentors and peers with similar goals as myself, I found my place in the field of STEM. I became EMT certified and began working as a medical scribe at a local clinic. In addition, I found a passion for pure mathematics and completed a Multivariate Calculus course through Virginia Commonwealth University with an A; the class full of male college engineering students initially terrified the 7-year-old girl in me but surprised the 17-year-old me with its supportiveness and helpfulness. I discovered the intersection between sciences, mathematics, and medicine as I tended to my cancer-ridden mother last year; caring for her (while my brother and father turned green in the face from her wounds) introduced me to the mechanics of medical devices and the physiology of treatments.
The field of STEM no longer presents itself as the terrifying, male-dominated field my 7-year-old self saw. The field of STEM gives me hope. In the future of medicine and engineering, I envision optimized medical devices and procedures. I see the alleviation of unnecessary patient suffering. I imagine humans, like my mother, recovering from cancer and other pervasive diseases. Next year, I plan to study biomedical engineering sciences at Duke University. I could not be more excited to enter the world of STEM as a woman.
Thank you to all of our wonderful applicants. We enjoyed reading each and every one of your essays! If you are a woman pursuing an education in a technology-related field, look out for our next scholarship opportunity.