Scientists talk education, careers, family on ‘Women in STEM’ panel

Dotty Woodson on STEM panel

Dr. Dotty Woodson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service water resource specialist in Dallas leads the panel discussion “Women in STEM.” (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Gabe Saldana)

Writer: Gabe Saldana, 956-408-5040, gabe.saldana@ag.tamu.edu
Contacts: Dr. Dotty Woodson, 972-952-9688, dotty.woodson@ag.tamu.edu
Dr. Anupma Sharma, 972-952-9234, anupma.sharma@ag.tamu.edu

FORT WORTH – A Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service water resource specialist took the podium at Tarrant County College-Trinity River Campus, imploring her audience of about 100 women, “never give up and never let anyone stop you from doing what you want to do.”

The message from Dr. Dotty Woodson, Dallas, came as part of the college’s March 20 panel discussion, “Women in STEM” – an event on the role of women in science, technology, engineering and math. Woodson joined the panel alongside Dr. Anupma Sharma, a genomics postdoctoral research associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Dallas.

Anupma Sharma at podium

Dr. Anupma Sharma, genomics postdoctoral research associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research in Dallas, gives a talk about her career in science during the panel seminar “Women in STEM.” (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Gabe Saldana)

Sharma discussed education in her native New Delhi, India, her genomics doctorate from the University of Hawaii and her postdoctoral work, studying genomes by processing massive amounts of data.

“What interested me about genomics was its profound implications in nearly every field of biology,” Sharma said. “Advancements in sequencing technology have enabled sequencing of the human genome for less than $1,000 compared to billions just two decades ago. This has opened opportunities and challenges, especially in personalized medicine.”

Woodson, during a question and answer session, offered advice about where to find information on the types of STEM jobs that exist.

“For every profession, even the most specialized, there is a community of people — organizations that exist specifically for people in that profession,” Woodson said. “Find those groups and be active in them.”

Sharma advised attendees to use the web resources at their fingertips, directing the audience of mostly high school and college students toward MOOCs, or massive open online courses.

“Anyone can take these for free and expand their skill sets,” she said.

The panel, which also included Bell Helicopter industrial engineer Claudia Morales, answered questions about interpersonal experiences in STEM and the challenges of balancing family life against higher education and work.

Woodson spoke about a time when she caught her son telling a group of plant professionals about orchids shortly before a course she would give on the plant.

“He was giving my talk!” she said. “My children didn’t suffer because of my career in STEM; they grew because of it.”

A licensed pesticide applicator, Woodson also recounted snickering that once resonated from a majority-male audience before her course to a group of farmers and ranchers earlier in her career.

“I heard one of them say, ‘This girl is really going to come in here and talk to us?’ And my ears picked up other comments and scoffs as I walked up to the stage,” Woodson said. “But within 10-12 seconds of speaking, they knew that I knew what I was talking about; I had their attention.

“Never let anyone stop you from accomplishing what you set out to accomplish,” she said.

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