Faces of Tennessee Women in STEM

Cindi Smith-Walters PhD

Biology Department and Center for Environmental Education | Middle Tennessee State University

How did you become interested in math or science field while at high school?

I was raised in the country and we worked and played outside, so I've always been interested in nature. I can remember being a kid and catching grasshoppers and throwing them into spider webs to 'feed the spiders'. How they moved on their webs without getting stuck was amazing to me!

Why did you choose to work in your field?

I received a bachelor's degree in biology, but there were no jobs available so I got certification to teach science at the high school level. I was very surprised to find I really liked teaching, and went on to get a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I was not so happy with that degree. Therefore I went back to the 'sciences' and my PhD is in Environmental Science.

What are some areas of your job that you like the most?

I like being able to share my love of biology and how the world works with people of all ages.

What one thing would you tell a middle or high school girl who is considering majoring in STEM in college?

Go for it! Take as much math and science as you can to prepare you for college. Women have so much too offer the world. We cooperate with others much more readily than men and this is a major advantage for new ideas, discoveries, and even new products.


I was born in Oklahoma and grew up working cows and hauling hay along with my 3 sisters. In college I was a pre-med major, but as I said before, decided that school was to expensive so decided to work for a few years after graduation then go back to school. Unfortunately, my biology degree did not open a great many doors, so I applied for and received teaching certification for high school science (chemistry, biology, earth science).

It was a surprise to find I truly enjoyed teaching and this led me to work on and receive a MS degree in Curriculum & Instruction. I did not enjoy the education classes as much as those in the sciences, so when I received a scholarship and a graduate teaching assistantship to continue my education I focused on environmental science.

I've worked as a classroom science teacher, an education consultant for a natural resources agency, a graduate assistant, an education specialist for the state department of education, and as a college professor. I've also been blessed to work with great people and have great students here at MTSU.

I write articles on science teaching and learning, conduct research, author technical reports and studies, have written several book chapters, and truly enjoy my job!

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