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The power of STEM mentors

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Shrestha Roy Goswami

With most Indian girls struggling to make it to school, I have been fortunate to have a well-rounded support system in my hometown, Kolkata (India). Although I graduated from a university, I was still struggling to choose a career path owing to a lack of guidance or mentorship. Most people think that increment of facilities would enhance progress of women in the country. However, due to my own experience I realized that the facilities have always been there, but few people strive to reach out for guidance beyond the traditional limits. This is especially true for those who do not receive as much support as students in elite universities.

For my career guidance, I started approaching people who could give me information about the subject I wanted to pursue. These included seniors, juniors, professors and scientists working in different research labs, and their referrals abroad, etc. Every day after class, I mailed at least five professors with a short statement of purpose, stating why I wanted to pursue the topic. Sometimes, they gave helpful feedback, but often they did not reply at all. However, by the end of semester, I already had a network of about 50 professors who knew me via mail and gave me at least five tips on how to succeed. I kept track of everything they said. One of the relevant suggestions was to pursue research at the undergraduate level. Hence, I continued research at the university under the supervision of my mentor who encouraged me to volunteer for public speaking, oral and poster sessions, internships, etc. I participated in these events to get past my fears and feeling that I have nothing to contribute to the scientific community.

It is essential to understand that science needs young people whose minds are not pre-configured so that they bring a fresh perspective to research. Finally, with the help of a professor and my co-supervisor at McGill University, I received my first scholarship for Masters' study. They also consented to my decision of switching to a different university (University of Toronto) for my doctoral studies on another topic. They convinced me that science needs motivated people (mentors) who can help each other grow. My advice for young girls interested in STEM would be to develop a strong network of mentors. If you cannot access facilities that can amplify your professional growth, try to think out of the box and do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. With persistence and mentorship, you can too find guidance and a clear direction to excel in your career.


About the editor:

Dr. Nida Rehmani serves as a mentor for the Global STEM Alliance programs, New York Academy of Sciences, USA. She is the scientific editor for and content editor for Lotus Stories blogs.

Dr. Rehmani completed her B.Sc. & M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Aligarh Muslim University, India. Her zeal for higher education led her to pursue Ph.D. in molecular biology. Under the auspices of the Obama Singh exchange dual degree program, she continued her research in the Department of Radiology, The Ohio State University, USA. During the program, she earned a M.Ed., specialized in STEM higher education. 

She is a science communication enthusiast and volunteers for advocating STEM education, especially under-represented communities and minorities. She has a flair for writing & maintains her own personal blog She loves cooking and launched her own youtube channel: Millenial Recipes. Last but not the least, she is a dedicated mother to an active toddler!

Linkedin: Nida Rehmani

Twitter: @DrNidaRehmani

Instagram: Dr.Nida.R



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