I am a physical anthropologist and bioarchaeologist. I observe human skeletal remains to gain information about prehistoric populations. I use the same knowledge and techniques to work modern forensic cases, as well. I am a member of the Forensic Anthropology Search and Recovery (FASR) Team, which assists law enforcement with the recovery and identification of human remains from crime scenes. I currently serve as a Graduate Fellow and visiting scientist at John Overton High School through the National Science Foundation (NSF) GK-12 program. This allows me to share my real-world science experiences with high school students, as well as mentor original student research projects.
How would you describe your college experience?
When I first started my college experience, I thought of it as an extension of my high school education. I later realized university life is completely different from high school. While you still take core courses in basic subjects, you are able to take many more specialized courses in the subject that interests you most. For me, these were courses in archaeology and biology.
When did you know that you wanted to major in a STEM discipline?
I knew from an early age that I would be a scientist. I asked for my first microscope at six years old, and I always enjoyed exploring and learning new things. My first four years of college (my undergraduate degree) were used to study anthropology, which is the study of humans. My current course work for my Master's degree is in Biology. I realized as I studied anthropology that I needed to know how humans function biologically in order to interpret archaeological sites through human remains. All of my studies combine to give me a well-rounded education for work as a physical anthropologist.
What is the most rewarding thing that you do in your job as a STEM professional?
The most rewarding experiences I have as a physical anthropologist are those that allow me to tell the stories of the dead. Whether I am examining remains from a 1,000 year old archaeology site or from a modern forensic case, my science allows me to know things about how that person lived and died. The opportunity to reconstruct past lives and cultures is incredibly exciting.
What would you tell a middle or high school girl about careers in STEM?
Any career in a STEM field will provide an exciting professional experience. I love the work I do; each day provides a new experience. My STEM career allows me to do all the things I love. I conduct research, travel to interesting places, teach, perform community outreach, and most importantly, I continue learning new things every day.
What should middle and high school girls be doing to prepare themselves for college
and a STEM careers?
Whether you plan to pursue a STEM career or any other field, you should start networking NOW! Meet professionals that have the career you want. Volunteer to work with them so that you can see if it is something you can see yourself doing in the future. Learn which schools have the best programs for your area of interest. STEM, like other fields, is competitive. Work hard now, and you will be able to apply to the best programs and receive funding for your education. Take advantage of high school courses or programs that are offered in your area of interest. If you are interested in STEM, be sure to take extra science and math courses.
What advice do you have for teachers and counselors who are assisting students prepare
for a STEM major and career?
Encourage students to pursue careers that they are excited about. Students often think becoming a doctor or nurse sounds good, but they do not always recognize the amount of time and commitment involved, and they often do not realize how much science and math are needed for these professions. Likewise, some students are apprehensive about pursuing STEM careers because they do not think they are "smart" enough. STEM careers require intelligence, but they also work well for individuals with creative thinking skills. Pairing students with mentors is a great way to expose them to real-world experiences in various professional fields. Most universities have graduate students and faculty willing to mentor middle and high school students.
What career advice would you give to girls if you only had 2 minutes?
Never be afraid to meet new people. Most professionals are excited to know that you are interested in their work. Any good scientist will be willing to share their science with you or advise you. If you are genuinely committed to pursuit of a specific goal, you can make anything great happen for yourself. Hard work pays off. If you love the job you do, you will never work a day in your life.
22nd MTSU EYH Conference 2018
Registration is now open!
The conference is scheduled for October 27, 2018.
Rachel Marlin represents MTSU at the SENCER Summer Institute.
SERMACS 2017 Partners for Progress and Prosperity (P3) Award to MTSU WISTEM Center, Nashville ACS Local Section, and MTSU EYH.