Mayra Yucely Beb Caal

Researcher

Institute Femto-ST

And - Ph.D. Student

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The world needs you, be passionate about everything you do and never let someone turn off your light, shine, and smile wherever you go.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I am working as a researcher at the FEMTO-ST Institute in France. I am working on 3D surface reconstruction with the scanning electron microscope for metrological and educational applications. I am applying knowledge related to robotics, control, optics, and vision in my research. Besides, I am a Ph.D. candidate in automation and control from the Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté. I am also a volunteer and member of the IEEE, OWSD, OSA, and SPIE associations. I like to support activities and volunteering to encourage more girls to pursue scientific careers.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I am of Kekchí Mayan descent, something significant to me because we have suffered much discrimination, and women still have limited opportunities.

Someone who influenced my life was my mother because she was denied many opportunities because she was a woman; she did not want me to suffer the same. My mother always told me that everything was possible if I tried hard, also she taught me to fight for my dreams.

When I won my first scholarship at 14 years old, I had to leave home and move to another region, my father did not want to, and many relatives told me that mechatronics was not for girls (that is, unfortunately, the mentality of many people in my country).

Despite all those comments, my mother signed my permit and always supported me. I leaned towards mechatronics during high school because I was intrigued by new technologies, and there were very few women in that field. Most of the time, I was the only woman in many courses; I think that made me safe and, above all, not fear anything. I liked to show that women can do many things; that is why I took a course on industrial welding, electrical installations, three-phase motors, etc.; I was pleased when they told me that I was the best and showed that cars or welding were not only for men.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

I think there are always obstacles, but I can highlight that makes me very upset when I graduated from undergraduate and started looking for work. Unfortunately, most of the jobs in my field of studies required that I be over 27 years old, be a man, and have five years of work experience. Unfortunately, the forms being online, the pages did not even let me apply. In some companies, I went to the interview stage, and in several, they told me that they could not imagine a woman in those positions; besides that, I looked like a girl (at that time, I was 21 years old). After applying to several companies that my university professors recommended me, a company hired me as head of mechanical maintenance, I had a group of 10 people in charge, all men. I think I was thrilled to learn from them and that They learned from me, it was difficult at first because they could not believe that a 21-year-old girl was their boss in a mechanical maintenance area.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I want to continue showing thousands of girls that women can be scientists, entrepreneurs, dreamers, and work in STEM areas worldwide. I would have liked that Guatemala have more STEM careers. I would have liked to see more Guatemalan women in technological areas to inspire me. I would have liked to have had a doll that was a scientist or an engineer in my childhood. All my education has been free since high school, I have been on a scholarship, and I never imagined that studying would make me know other countries and cultures; I have lived in 4 countries, and I have won 6 scholarships. And I never imagined that one day the IEEE (one of the largest institutions in science) would give me an award to encourage me to continue studying.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I love it because I discover new things and contribute to improving many systems. My career encompasses several areas, and it pleases me to see how everything comes together with the same purpose. For example, to produce clean energy, a wind turbine needs mechanical, electronic, electrical, robotics, mathematics, and programming; I love understanding how everything works together and being able to contribute new ideas.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

The world needs you, be passionate about everything you do and never let someone turn off your light, shine, and smile wherever you go.

INSPIRATION

Remember the phrase by Diane von Fürstenberg "I didn't always know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be."

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