Kaelyn Brown has wanted to be a scientist since she was 6, and the dream stuck with her through grade school. Today the senior neuroscience concentrator has been interning for two years in a cancer research program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and this year has been researching neurobiological mechanisms in people addicted to smoking at the McLean Imaging Center in McLean Hospital. She is well on her way.
Brown knows her story is not typical. Few girls pursue a career in the sciences. Women make up less than a third of all employees in the science and engineering workforce. Broken out by race, the situation looks even bleaker. Black females, like Brown, account for about 8.5 percent of the workforce, while Latinas are at about 7.8 percent, all according to the National Science Foundation.
That is why Brown and Ashley Cooper ’21, who’s a joint concentrator in neuroscience and social anthropology, and a group of about 20 other female students from Harvard are trying to inspire the next generation of women scientists by volunteering with Science Club for Girls, the very same after-school program that first opened the world of science to Brown.
“Science Club for Girls really shaped me into who I am today,” Brown said. “A lot of my career goals go back to Science Club for Girls and the speakers and women who came in, especially Black women, who gave me the foundation and the confidence that really helped me in my later years when my confidence was consistently challenged by myself and peers.”
Brown and Cooper are co-directors for the Harvard College chapter of Science Club for Girls, which is based in Cambridge and run by Bonnie Bertolaet, Ph.D. ’93. Brown and Cooper revived the Harvard partnership with the program in the fall of 2019. The pair worked since 2018 to restart the Harvard chapter since it went on hiatus in 2017, when the organization restructured.
“Representation is visceral,” said Cooper. “The most important part for us is really being there, embodying what these girls want to do and endeavor to do in their future.”