Stephanie Fitzgerald always wanted to be a scientist—both of her parents were scientists and she grew up fascinated by the subject. This dream has become a reality for Stephanie, and her journey included an Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) internship in 1998.
Stephanie’s internship was at Borden Chemical Co., the company known for creating Elmer’s Glue and Krazy Glue, which has now merged into Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc. As an intern at Borden’s Research and Development Analytical Lab, Stephanie carried out analytical tests that provided important information on Borden’s resins and raw materials such as titrations, pH measurements and gas chromatography. She also learned about spectroscopy and computer programming. Her mentors were open to pursuing what Stephanie wanted to learn; they ran with her idea, helping her craft a fulfilling internship experience. This collaboration is a trademark of the ASE program. Stephanie remembers her favorite part of her internship was putting together her final poster for the ASE Symposium and seeing what her friends accomplished. She said that the ASE Symposium was a destination, and it felt like a real conference.
"I learned a lot during my internship," says Stephanie. "One of the most important things I learned was that I didn’t like chemistry!" The experience showed her that she still loved math and science and helped her to narrow down her studies. She attended the University of Oregon, where she received a BS in Math and Physics. While she didn’t choose to study chemistry, Stephanie used the discipline as part of her undergraduate thesis in Applied Optical Physics: Surface Plasmons and Laser Speckle.
After graduating college, Stephanie moved with her husband to Boston, Massachusetts where she worked at Tufts University. Her work with the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK) program and the Tufts Health Sciences Library fueled her interest in STEM education. That interest lead her to complete her graduate studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, as part of the Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) master’s program. Stephanie then worked as an Instructional Designer/Project Manager at an extracurricular STEAM program in Salt Lake City, Utah. Stephanie and her family have recently returned to their home state of Oregon where she has been working as a Teaching Assistant for Alchemy Code Lab. She will start as a Software Developer at Ideate Software's Portland location in January. Stephanie is also an active volunteer with Women Who Code.
To Stephanie, the most important thing she learned from the ASE program was how to be intrinsically motivated. She says, "If you want to get the most out of any program of study, you must have that fundamental motivation. The ASE program was a lot of work, it was time well invested."
The fruits of her labor can be seen in her successful career. If you’re interested in Stephanie’s work, you can read more about her here. Stephanie’s time with the ASE program was an important stepping stone in her career—we are so glad to have reconnected with her and heard about her journey as a scientist and educator. You never know where an experience like an ASE internship can take you, or where it can take the people you mentor!