Manavi Chatterjee (Biology):
My school only offered science and I was good at it and always interested to learn new things in science.
Rajeev Erramilli (Physics):
I was very lucky in that I had a lot of wonderful role models. My uncle is a physicist, and when I was a baby as soon as I could say the word “light” he made sure to (jokingly) correct me with “no, photon!” Humor aside, he was always keen to keep me going with popular science books when I got older, along with my parents (who are engineers). I’ve wanted to be a scientist since at least late elementary school, because before that I wanted to be a racecar driver, haha. But I can’t say there was any particular moment that made me come to that decision. Here are a few of my favorite memories: making liquid nitrogen ice cream with my uncle; reading about the jet age of aviation over and over again; and learning about the math concept of “cardinality” (how there isn’t one “infinity” but rather different “sizes” of infinities) from the book 1, 2, 3… Infinity when I was really bored one summer during a family trip to India.
Rowan Palmer (Engineering):
For as long as I can remember, I enjoyed math, science, and art. Although I was good at them, I definitely saw myself as a more artistic person, who just happened to also do STEM things, and this persisted most of the way through middle school. What really made me realize how much I loved science was how much I loved science museums. We’d go places for school field trips, and I’d read every sign and try every little experiment. I’d always beg to go to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, and was amazed every time by the room on weather, specifically on energy and how lightning is generated. Museums helped me create this idea that science and engineering were magic with which nothing was impossible.
My dad is an electrical engineer, and I grew up seeing him working from home and building things, and he always had a way of answering a very simple question the long way, with lots of extra information about stuff that he found interesting. It wasn’t that he did or did not encourage me to pursue STEM, but rather that he supported me in school, and helped me know what was possible. My mom also balanced me out in the humanities, as an English and History major in college and a current elementary school librarian. My whole life, I’ve had outlets to ask the big questions and have had discussions about topics in STEM and humanities that I’ve found interesting, and I know I’m very lucky for that.
It wasn’t until right before high school that I really felt like being an engineer and working in STEM was for me. My sister, who is two years older, joined my high school’s robotics, and I volunteered to help out with some of their videography. (At the time, I wanted to work in film and entertainment). But seeing all of these high schoolers building robots and making the technology come to life, I realized that engineering was a place where my love for art and math and science could all come together in one place. It was here – seeing my sister do engineering and seeing people my age creating technology right in front of me – that I realized I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and I haven’t really looked back since.