Shahana Althaf

Post Doctoral Researcher, Yale University


STEM education will give you the potential to literally change the world

What do you do?

I just completed my PhD in sustainability where I investigated the sustainability implications of material use in consumer electronics. I developed mathematical models to quantify how much electronics is used and waste is generated in the U.S and what are the economic, environment and social impacts associated with material consumption in electronic products. Now, in my post doctoral position at Yale, I work with senior research scientists at Yale Center for Industrial Ecology, to estimate global and national flows of metals, fibers and polymers, to understand the potential for recycling in reducing energy demand in the manufacturing sector.

Why did you choose this field?

I am basically an electronics engineer, my bachelors and masters degree is in telecommunication engineering. There I learned to engineer new technologies to make peoples lives easier. But I always wondered about the flip side of technology- the environmental impacts. My curiosity about the sustainability impacts of modern technologies made me apply for a PhD program in sustainability. I always knew I wanted to pursue an academic career but it was by the end of my masters program that I decided it will be sustainability.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

After my bachelors degree I had to take a break in my studies due to personal reasons. I returned to college for my masters after a 8 year break and after being a mother. Now I have a masters, a PhD and I am a post doc at an Ivy League Institution. I wish younger me knew all this was possible.

Why do you love working in STEM?

Working in STEM gives me the opportunity to do basic science, knowing that my work has potential to literally change the world- because STEM research can affect every part of people's lives.

Best advice for next generation?

It may sound cliche, but STEM education will give you the potential to literally change the world because the world revolves around STEM concepts. It will give you the ability to understand and solve many of the complex problems around you. And for girls, STEM education is the best possible way to break stereotypes and show the world that girls are as capable as boys.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails".
-Elizabeth Edwards

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