My STEM Story
By Holly B. Martin
My story as a woman in STEM began many years ago when I graduated from college with a degree in environmental engineering.
[Download a free STEM e-book here]
For my first engineering job, I worked with a group of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We were looking for ways to use the extra heat created by nuclear power plants. The heat comes in the form of hot water, which is stored in cooling ponds before it’s released into nearby rivers. That way it doesn’t endanger the local aquatic life.
To make good use of the excess (or waste) heat, the researchers in my group wanted to try farming a type of tropical fish called tilapia in the warmer water. To prove their concept, they grew tilapia in cages floating in the lab’s sewage treatment pond. The pond’s warm waters would simulate power plant waste heat and the algae growing in the pond would serve as food for the fish.
In the Middle of a Sewage Pond
My job every morning was to row a small boat out to the middle of the pond, pull up the cages full of fish. Then I took each fish out of its cage to weigh and measure it to see how well it was growing.
“My work badge soared in a perfect arc up into the air and splashed down into the murky water.”
One memorable day after measuring the last fish, I reared back to toss the cage into the pond. My work badge caught on a wet, slimy rope attached to a float. The badge soared in a perfect arc up into the air and splashed down into the murky water, never to be seen again.
Writing about STEM
Shortly after the sewage pond episode, I moved to a new job at The Aerospace Corporation in Los Angeles. Seven years later, I made a career change from engineering to editing a technical magazine. Almost overnight, I went from preparing project management charts to writing and editing articles on lasers and fiber optics.
Since then I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and writing about a number of women in STEM for a wide variety of clients. Here are just some of their stories:
- Gear Pioneer: Kate Gleason was way ahead of her time
- Women in the Lead: Smart Cities
- GMU professor’s ‘Nanoparticle Net’ may detect early cancer, Lyme disease
- Environmental Problem Solver Leslie Guth
- Women in Robotics: Challenges and Progress
- Fiber Optics Expert Suzanne R. Nagel
- Tunable Laser Inventor Mary Spaeth
- Women to play an increasing role in manufacturing industry
- Flex Fuel Pioneer Roberta J. Nichols
- Environmental Engineering: Career of the 90s
- Motherhood and Engineering
- Women in Lasers
Click here for a free downloadable e-book on Women in STEM careers, based on my interview with Mary L. Spaeth, inventor of the first tunable laser.
Love STEM and love to write? Check out my book, 52 Inspirational Quotes by Women in STEM: A Journal for Reflection – available on Amazon.
About the Author
Holly B. Martin is a former engineer who homeschooled her five children for many years. Now a freelance science writer for organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, AT&T, and others, she regularly interviews scientists & engineers to write articles for magazines and websites. Out of these experiences, Holly has created books and interactive resources featuring the lives and words of famous scientists to inspire young people to pursue careers in STEM.
Visit Holly’s industrial B2B copywriting website at www.hollybmartin.com.