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Natasha Gerstenschlager

How would you describe your college experience?

My undergraduate college experience can be summed up in one word: involved. While I was studying for my bachelor’s degree, I had the amazing opportunity to work as an intern at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN, as well as study abroad in Prague. Both of these experiences changed my life forever. When I was at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I had an equally life-changing summer. I got to meet some of the world’s most intelligent scientists and mathematicians. I was able to work on a government-funded project and see what research was really like. While in Prague, I studied courses for my minor and got to live in a dorm right outside downtown Prague. I became fully immersed in the culture and had the time of my life During the school semester, I was a member of an honor society and the treasurer of the Math Club (Pi Mu Epsilon). I also was very blessed to be a group leader for Expanding Your Horizons.

My graduate college experience has been equally as amazing. Currently, I am a Graduate School Senator, a member of the American Mathematical Society and the Graduate Student Association, an Expanding Your Horizons group leader and mathematics tutor. I truly enjoy being involved on my campus and would recommend that to anyone who wants to have the ultimate college experience.


When did you know that you wanted to major in a  STEM discipline?

My senior year of high school was when I became certain that I wanted to major in a STEM discipline. I enjoyed the challenge that mathematics presented, and I knew that it would be a rewarding career choice.

What is the most rewarding thing that you do in  your job as a STEM professional?

The most rewarding part of my job is helping others. Watching them understand and apply mathematics is a true joy to me.

What would you tell a middle or high school girl  about careers in STEM?

The opportunities are endless! She could be a nurse, doctor, mathematician, chemist, physicist, educator, marine biologist... Also I think every young girl should know that not only are STEM careers challenging, but they are also VERY rewarding!

What should middle and high school girls be doing  to prepare themselves for college and a STEM  careers?

The best advice I received about college was to create excellent study habits as soon as possible and do NOT procrastinate.

In order to prepare for a STEM career, I think every girl should be studying science and mathematics diligently. Both are essential in nearly EVERY STEM field. Don’t think that just because you want to major in Computer Science or Pre-Med that you won’t be using very essential math and science skills because you most certainly will! Start studying early and it will pay off. I promise.  


 What advice do you have for teachers and counselors who are assisting students prepare for  a STEM major and career?

Please make sure that your students are taking the right courses to prepare them for college (suggest AP and Honors courses) and absolutely be sure that your students understand the importance and application of what is being taught to them. Although I am a bit biased, I do believe that a strong foundation in math is essential for any STEM major. The people whom I see struggle the most with their STEM majors, do not have a problem understanding their specific subject, but they do have issues understanding the math behind the calculations they perform. Please let them know that math is essential for every STEM field.

What career advice would you give to girls if you only had 2 minutes?

Don’t ever believe that you can’t do something. Becoming a doctor or taking an upper-level physics class may sound difficult (and it can be), but it is NOT impossible! Apply yourself, and you will realize that anything is possible. Never give up.

Finally, take every opportunity you have to learn more about what you’re interested in whatever it is. Talk after class with your professors about it. Visit conferences. Read about it on the internet. Get books on the subject. Immerse yourself in it! The people who succeed are those who know no bounds and are passionate about their career choice. 

 

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