Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Take a Girl Scout to Work at Jefferson Lab

This month, Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast is working with Girl Scout alumnae in a variety of careers to place Girl Scouts in work shadowing positions during Take a Girl Scout to Work Day. Take a Girl Scout to Work Day is modeled after the national Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work® (TODASTW) where each year more than 3.5 million American workplaces open their doors to over 39 million employees and their children on TODASTW Day.

Tatyana, Girl Scout Leader Tamika Butler, Shannon, Rahwa
and Christine Wheeler of Jefferson Lab
On Thursday, April 6, three Peninsula Girl Scouts, Shannon, Tatyana and Rahwa, spent the day at Jefferson Lab, where they met with women working in a variety of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Shannon, a high school junior who has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, has an interest in pursuing a career in computer science. She has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a girl can earn in Girl Scouting, and is a member of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast board of directors. In school, she takes advanced science classes and recently placed at the Great Computer Challenge. She attributes much of her interest in STEM to experiences that she has had as a Girl Scout.

Rahwa, who is also a high school junior, has an interested in biology and has considered a career in the medical field. As she learns more about different careers, she is hoping to study biomedical engineering in college. Tatyana is a high school freshman and has a wide range of interests in STEM. By visiting Jefferson Lab and taking part in other activities with Girl Scouts, Tatyana hopes to explore many career options during her next few years in high school.

The day started in the Support Service Center, where Christine Wheeler, a science education administrator, welcomed Girl Scouts to Jefferson Lab by sharing what scientists are studying there and talking about important safety guidelines to follow while visiting.

Mechanical Engineer Celia Whitlatch shows a flow sensor
she designed as part of a new cooling system at Jefferson Lab.
The girls then visited Celia Whitlatch, a mechanical engineer, in her office and learned about what her job is like. Whitlatch was excited to share with the girls that she had been a Girl Scout while growing up in Arizona. She showed the girls photos from a cooling system project that she worked on, displayed sample pieces that she has designed, including a flow sensor, and talked about her role as a supervisor on construction projects. She then talked about the education she needed to obtain her job, and showed the girls some of her college textbooks, which she still references today when working on projects. Whitlatch also shared that she sometimes faces challenges as a woman in a male-dominated career, especially when it comes to managing a construction site.

“I have never had a female mechanical engineer colleague here at Jefferson Lab in the 22 years that I have worked here,” Whitlatch told the girls. “I used to be shy, but being a female engineer has made me more outspoken. Sometimes have to defend my projects and designs.”

Tatyana, Rahwa and Shannon with Health Physicist Maya Keller
in the Radioanalytical Lab at Jefferson Lab.
The girls then walked to the Applied Research Center, where they met with Maya Keller, who is a health physicist working in the radiation control department at Jefferson Lab. Keller showed the girls a training space used to simulate dealing with radioactive materials. She also talked about the responsibilities she has in her job, including training people about safety around radioactive materials, running the radioanalytical lab and managing the dosimetry program, which monitors levels of radioactivity for individuals working at Jefferson Lab. Keller brought the girls into the radioanalytical lab and discussed how technicians use the different types of machines to measure levels of radiation.

Later in the morning, the girls visited the offices of Michele Joyce, a computer scientist, and Fay Hannon, a physicist, to learn about their careers as well. After lunch in the cafeteria at Jefferson Lab, the girls had the chance to take a tour of the campus and learn more about the research projects conducted there.

Take a Girl Scout to Work Day at Jefferson Lab was designed to give teen Girl Scouts the opportunity to learn more about the wide range of careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. In today’s world, women hold only approximately 25 percent of STEM careers. And, in some STEM fields, women are even more underrepresented than others. According to the American Physical Society, in 2015, less than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in physics were earned by women.

Girl Scouts is committed to providing opportunities for girls to explore and discover in a wide variety of STEM fields. Through opportunities, including Take a Girl Scout to Work Day at Jefferson Lab, Girl Scouts is able to introduce girls women in STEM careers, who show girls that they can be whatever they want to be.