What do you do?
I am a graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering researching solar energy and nanotechnology. In my research, I have trained hundreds of hours to be qualified to independently operate some of the most expensive equipment on campus, electron microscopes. These microscopes are so powerful they allow us to see atoms!
I am also a very active science communicator. I frequently volunteer to do science experiments with kids, and during the quarantine I started my own video series, Sciencing With Abby, so kids can do science experiments with things they can find in their home.
Basically, my life revolves around science and engineering, and I will talk about it with anyone who will listen!
Why did you choose this field?
I chose Materials Science and Engineering because it combines my two favorite fields of STEM, chemistry and engineering. My Dad is a physics teacher and was always doing science experiments with me and my two brothers, and as a result of growing up surrounded by science all three of us have become engineers.
When I was in elementary school my Dad would come in once or twice a year and do a big science experiment with everyone in my class, and growing up watching him get everyone excited about science was what ignited my passion for science communication.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
Oh man, so many. So so many. Just the fact that I graduated with an engineering degree would be enough to make Younger Abby think I was crazy. But there are two things that immediately come to my mind.
The first is when I graduated college, at the big Commencement Ceremony with everyone graduating at NC State that semester, I was chosen as their student speaker. I got the chance to deliver a message to thousands of people and it was the absolute dream of a lifetime.
The second is the fact that I am pursuing a PhD from Stanford University. Growing up I didn't know anyone who had a PhD, much less anyone who went to a place like Stanford, and I always thought that tier of place would always be unreachable for me.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Working in STEM lets me be unrelentingly and insatiably curious about the universe and how it all works. I wake up every day feeling excited knowing that I will learn something new, and I feel like learning all of the intricacies of our universe make me appreciate everything so much more. I love getting my hands dirty in a lab, I love solving problems that seem like they are unsolvable, and I love getting other people excited about doing science.
Best advice for next generation?
Stay curious, stay motivated, and stay humble. Always ask for the advice of people who have walked this path before you. And whatever you do, NEVER let anyone tell you that you can't do what you are passionate about, because if you want it badly enough you can find a way to make it happen.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"Somebody has to do it. Why can't it be you?” -My Aunt Jenn