Meet the Science Cheerleaders on April 7th and 8th in Washington, D.C. at the USA Science & Engineering Festival!
The Science Cheerleaders are current and former NFL, NBA, and College cheerleaders pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. They playfully challenge stereotypes, inspire young women to consider careers in STEM, and engage people from all walks of life in real scientific research through SciStarter.
This year’s featured Science Cheerleaders include cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins, Washington Wizards, and the George Washington University cheer teams as well as all of the cheerleaders listed below!
Talk to them about their dual careers, get their autographs on their personalized trading cards (collect them all), and be among the first people EVER to test their brand new, top secret STEM kits! They have more prizes and surprises for you!
Sarah helps a student at Friendship Public Schools get excited about presenting his research at the STEM Fair
Sarah meet with Dr. Loretta Web, Organizational and Leadership Development, Former Superintendent of Fairfax Schools (left) and Sue White, Director of STEM for the Friendship Public Charter Schools (center)
On February 24, 2018 Science Cheerleader Sarah attended the Friendship Public Charter School’s STEM Fair in Washington, DC. Sarah is passionate about STEM outreach in the Washington, D.C. area, and is a hometown hero having cheered for the Baltimore Blast, Baltimore Brigade, and Chesapeake Bayhawks! Sarah was able to speak to the participating children, their families, teachers, administrators, and judges, about her passion for science, and how it has influenced her career. Sarah was the first speaker to kick-off the STEM Fair at the Opening Ceremony. It was her priority to help get all of the children excited, and less nervous about the judging of their experiments that would occur later in the day.
The STEM Fair brought students face-to-face with leaders in the STEM industry, who assisted in judging, hosting workshops and various exhibits. During Sarah’s time spent at the STEM Fair, she was able to meet the participants and talk to them about how they came up with their ideas for their projects. Sarah even shared with a few participants that she remembered her science fair project from middle school which was about tooth decay and which drinks (soda, lemonade, tea, and water) cause decay to occur the quickest.
Hi everyone, Science Cheerleader Hilary here to help you get to know Theresa, a PhD student in Chemical Biology at Harvard! Theresa cheered at Superbowl LI for the New England Patriots, and can’t wait to meet you at the USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on April 7 and 8!
What turned you on to science and when? Both of my parents were engineers so science was always a big part of my education growing up. I participated in science fairs during middle school and high school with projects such as using kites to generate energy from the wind, adding jellyfish to sunscreen to improve the UV protection, or crushing up seashells to make a filter to effectively remove lead from water. This process of learning about the scientific method and finding creative solutions to problems made me excited about science. From these early experiences, I was convinced that I wanted to be involved in scientific research to help progress our knowledge of the world around us and tackle the challenges of disease.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader? I tried out to be a cheerleader for the Patriots in the spring of 2016, never imagining I would make the team! I had never done cheerleading before, but I was excited about the opportunity to learn something new.
Please describe what you do in your science career on a daily basis.Most of my time is spent in a laboratory. I design and run experiments to prove or disprove hypotheses we might have about a particular biological process. The kinds of tools I use on a daily basis are pipettes, petri dishes, cells, chemicals, and software to analyze data. The goal of my research is to understand the chemistry that occurs in cells and how those processes change in different diseases.
What does it mean for you to be studying in STEM?To me, science is about pursuing knowledge and discovering how the world around us works. Another important aspect of scientific research is understanding diseases and developing new therapeutic treatments. I want to be in science because I enjoy the process of solving these problems, discovering unknowns, and finding new molecular mechanisms of disease. I’m excited about being a part of the scientific community and I hope that my efforts and ideas will advance our understanding of biology and human disease in order to improve the lives of all people.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your science career? I think perhaps the most important aspect of being a cheerleader is being a good teammate and supporting those around you. In science, discoveries rarely happen alone and being able to communicate and work together with a team towards a common goal is necessary for success.
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders in our society that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a scientist. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders and scientists? I think that breaking down negative stereotypes is important particularly as a role model for future scientists and engineers. Every young kid should be able to follow their passion, whatever that may be, and it’s a shame when stereotypes create barriers to pursuing one’s dreams. I knew that I was interested in science from a young age and my mom had been an engineer, so I knew that being a woman in STEM was hard, but possible. When other scientists heard about my decision to audition for the New England Patriots Cheerleaders, they were surprised since it’s definitely not the norm. But, I was eager to pursue this interest and in the end the science community was happy to cheer me on!
Best cheerleading experience? My favorite cheerleading experience was going to Houston for Super Bowl LI. I had the opportunity to share my passion for science at the Children’s Museum in Houston (as a Science Cheerleader!) as we held an interactive exhibit about gravity. Of course, the game itself was incredible and celebrating a great season with so many fans was an experience I’ll always remember!
Best science-related experience? My favorite science experiences are those moments in the lab when an experiment works or you get interesting data. It’s an incredible feeling when you can figure out a new piece of the puzzle. Another favorite experience is communicating science. Whether at a conference, or in writing articles, or talking to friends, communicating about science and sharing my excitement for scientific discovery is always so much fun!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I was always very shy and reserved growing up. I’ve had some exciting scientific and life experiences that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and try something new. From there, it’s just about being open to the serendipity of life and jumping at the opportunities that may come your way.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you? One thing people might find surprising is that I am half Irish and half Chinese and have been Irish step dancing since I was five! Through Irish step dancing I have celebrated my heritage, but I also have had the opportunity to compete internationally in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Canada!
Hi everyone, Science Cheerleader Hilary here to give you an update on Sarah, a child and adolescent therapist who cheered for the Chesapeake Bayhawks, the Baltimore Blast, and the Baltimore Brigade! Sarah cheered on young girls at a local Science Fair at their school in Washington, D.C. this past Saturday. Interested in having Science Cheerleaders at your event? Request an appearance here!
Read on below to hear what Sarah has been up to since we first met her in 2015!
Photo Credit: GCF Photography
What turned you on to STEM and when? I have always known that I wanted to make a difference in the world, but I was not sure how. My father created FlavoRx, a type of flavored medicine to help severely sick children function on a daily basis, by being able to take their medicine. He inspired me to make a change in the world, especially in the STEM field. After pursuing my undergraduate degree (in a non-STEM field), I realized that my career path was heading towards science when I started working at the American Heart Association (AHA). I helped start a program in 2011 called Recess Baltimore, to better enhance the lives of inner-city youths and teach them to become advocates for healthy living. This is an 8-month program that incorporates a curriculum of heart-healthy activities and nutrition lessons. We work with about 250 children in their recreation centers to teach them a curriculum of 10 lessons. We test the children’s knowledge at the beginning of the program and at the end of the program. The program is still around to this day! I ended up leaving the AHA in 2013 to pursue my Master of Science degree for another passion of mine, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, to make a direct impact on clients of mine through talk therapy.
What is your day job like? I am a Child and Adolescent Therapist, and am able to work in four different Baltimore County Schools. I work with middle school and high school clients, helping them to feel more comfortable in their own skin and to how learn to cope better with situations that they are facing. After my day of seeing clients at school, I head to our mental health clinic and see clients there!
Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader? Since I was 10 years old on my first recreation league cheerleading squad, I have always known that I wanted to be a professional cheerleader. I would watch the professional cheerleaders at sporting events, and tell my parents that one day, that would be me. After I graduated from college, I wanted to be around like-minded women who care about cheerleading as much as I do, and I wanted to become part of the performing and cheering sisterhood.
What does it mean for you to work in STEM? Working in STEM is extremely powerful to me because I know that through my work I am inspiring other women to pursue their dreams. It is important to me because there are fewer women in STEM careers, and I want to keep empowering women never to doubt themselves despite what they want to study and work in. My work is important because it helps my clients believe in themselves, feel like they have an opportunity to be heard, and have a nonjudgmental outlet to discuss life’s issues. I see myself making a better world by helping improve one person’s issues, one client at a time!
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your career? I love performing and being in front of a crowd, and I get the same feeling with my career. Even though I am only in front of my clients and sometimes their families when I am counseling, I know at the end of the day I counseled to the best of my ability and was proud of my time with them. I am also a very positive person and teammate. Having a positive outlook helps immensely when working with my clients because at times their stories are not the easiest to handle, but they are looking to me for guidance and I want to provide that to them in a positive and nonjudgmental manner.
How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? I feel as if I am a stereotype-breaker as a professional cheerleader who works in STEM. When fans ask me what I do, I get really excited to tell them that I am a therapist and have completed my Masters degree. I have had numerous instances when the fan blankly stares at me, and other times when they tell me how impressed they are. However, I didn’t want to get an advanced degree because I wanted to impress people, I wanted to do it because I knew that it would allow me to make the biggest impact on my clients. After I explain to fans what I do, I make sure to say that from a young age I wanted to help people, and now I get to do that every day!
Best cheerleading experience? I am so thankful for all of the experiences I have had on each team that I have been on. However, one of the best cheerleading experiences I have had was becoming one of the inaugural Baltimore Brigade Dancers. It was an honor to be on the first dance team for Baltimore’s Arena football league!
Best STEM-related experience? The best STEM-related experience I have had was crossing the stage when I obtained my Master of Science diploma at graduation! Although, I have had many rewarding STEM-related experiences in my fieldwork leading up to obtaining my degree and after, I believe actually receiving my diploma was the best culmination feeling of all of my hard work!
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? I would give my 12-year-old self the same advice my father gave to me: persist, persist, persist! Don’t let not being able to do something on your first try deter you from trying again!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you? I started the “I am ABLE” wristband of hope when I was 16 years old. My younger sister Hadley has cerebral palsy and I used to hate when people would make fun of her for being in a wheelchair and being different. Instead of getting angry, I created the bright orange, jelly-like wristbands to get my message across to people. One on side of the band it said “I am ABLE,” and on the other side, it said “SK. HK” for my maiden name initials and my sisters initials because I created the wristbands for her. The meaning of “I am ABLE” is that everyone is ABLE to spread awareness about discrimination against the disabled, and also to treat people equally regardless of how they might look or speak. I was able to speak all over the United States on behalf of my wristbands, and all of the money I raised went to a non-profit organization called Shane’s Inspiration, which creates specialized playgrounds so able-bodied children and disabled children can play together.
The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropic organization committed to advancing brain research and to educating the public in a responsible manner about research’s potential: (1) to develop a better understanding of the brain and its functions; (2) to speed the discovery of treatments for brain disorders; and (3) to combat the stigma of brain disorders through education. Recently, the Dana Foundation published an interview with Science CheerleaderHilary. In the discussion she talked about our mission and what it’s like to do STEM outreach as a Science Cheerleader and a practicing researcher.
Here’s an excerpt:
Do you have any tips for scientists who want to engage with younger audiences to encourage a career in STEM or a general curiosity and love of science?
Personally, the most impactful people in my career path have been those who are truly passionate about their work. When you share that passion with someone, it becomes infectious, and they get excited about what you’re doing, too! I would encourage anyone who is interested in inspiring young people to engage in STEM to reach out to the Science Cheerleaders and get involved, and also to visit the SciStarter site and choose a citizen science project that matches your passions. Collect a group to do the project together, and help solve real problems with top scientists. You can change a young person’s life by helping them take the first step!
Jess is a Miami Dolphins cheerleader with a degree in Family and Child Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing! Find out how Jess uses her skills on and off the field to inspire her teammates and her patients!
What turned you on to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and when? My father and my grandma are the ones who turned me on to STEM. My dad is an engineer, and growing up he helped me with all my science projects and even math homework. He always stayed up late at night with me trying to draw or to figure out an equation. He was one of my biggest influencers in grade school. On the other hand, my grandma, who is a registered nurse, helped guide me through college in all my nursing courses. She was my biggest supporter and one of the reasons why I went into the field of nursing.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader? Being a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader was never in my career path. I like to think I have the best of both worlds. It truly is a blessing being able to do two things you love weekly. I tried out to be a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader because one of my nursing colleagues told me about auditions and thought I would be an asset to the team. Growing up I danced, so I used those abilities to get me through auditions. I just took a leap of faith that day and am so thankful I made it all the way through!
What is a typical day on the job like for you? I am a night shift nurse. I work on a general medical floor where we see all types of people. I mainly see the elderly and those whose conditions are severe. My general flow of work is from 7 p.m.-7:30 a.m. My night consists of passing out medicines that have been ordered and making sure everyone is pain free and able to sleep peacefully. Each patient has a different order, some are more severe than others. The tools I typically use help me monitor blood pressure, blood sugar, temperature, and oxygen. I spend most of my time in different patient rooms or at the nurses’ stations charting and evaluating my patients. The goal of my work is to make sure everyone is as comfortable as possible and to allow their hospital visit to be as short as possible. Each night we want to see progress, we want everyone to get better so they can go home and be with their loved ones.
What does it mean for you to be practicing in STEM? It means a lot for me to be practicing STEM. I love helping people and giving back to my community. I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. My role is to help those who are in medical need. I hope that one day we can find a cure to the many diseases that are affecting our world today. I help people, not wanting anything in return; that’s when you know you have a passion for something.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you as a nurse? Being able to greet people and converse has helped me in my career of choice. Every night I’m at work, I’m always smiling and showing everyone the upmost respect. My cheerleading career has helped me so much in becoming a more open and sociable person.
Best cheerleading experience? My best cheerleading experience was my military tour to Egypt. I was able to dress up in a dog suit and get chased by a K9. The adrenaline rush was everything!
Best health-related experience? My best health-related experience was working in the ER and reviving someone who was in cardiac arrest back to life.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? The best advice I would give my 12-year old self is not to rush life. Have fun while you can, because once you become an adult life hits you fast!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you? I think one thing people find surprising about me is that I hope to be a trauma nurse one day. I really want to help those who are in dire need. Being a trauma nurse takes a lot of mental preparation, and I’m ready to tackle it. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!”
Hi Science Cheerleader fans! Hilary here, introducing you to New England Patriots Cheerleaders rookie Samantha! When she isn’t preparing for the Super Bowl, Samantha is studying to get her bachelor’s degree in biomedical science!
What turned you on to STEM and when? When I was eight years old, my father bought me a children’s book called Freddie Visits the Doctor. After reading the book every night before bed, the idea of becoming a doctor seemed more interesting by the day. Growing up I have always excelled in my science classes, so my fascination with becoming a doctor became stronger and led me to apply to college as a biomedical science major.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader? Growing up, I danced for about nine years on a competitive dance team. I have always loved being a part of a team because it taught me so much about myself and how to work with others.
What is your day job like?As an undergraduate teaching assistant for general biology and microbiology labs, my job is quite busy. I spend the majority of the week grading lab reports, which are pretty much a summary of what the students did in lab that week and what they learned from it. I also create slide shows to teach my students. When I am not grading lab reports or creating lesson plans, I am preparing the lab with all the supplies needed to have it run smoothly.
What does it mean for you to be studying STEM? Although I am not quite there yet, my career goal is to become a pharmacist. I love knowing that I am part of the mechanism to help people feel better. I love the idea of being able to have direct patient care with the people who come to my pharmacy and making a difference in their lives. Every day there are new advances in medical technology, which is one of the many reasons why I love the idea of becoming a pharmacist. I can use those advances to select the best medicines and treat diseases earlier on or prevent them entirely with individually tailored drug therapies.
How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career? Through studying in STEM and cheerleading, I have become a very diligent individual. Handling long nights in the library, extra hours on projects, and countless extracurricular activities may seem very time consuming and tedious, but I always find myself saying, “In the long run it’ll be worth it.” Being determined, hard-working, and having excellent time management are great qualities to have in your day-to-day life
How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?I am very passionate about breaking stereotypes about not only cheerleaders in STEM, but also women in general. “Science is not feminine, men are worth more, you can’t be a mom and a scientist,” are some of the most common stereotypes that are out there about women in STEM, and they are just simply untrue. When I got into college as a biomedical science major, most of my peers were shocked. I was always known as the girly dancer and pageant model that knew how to walk in heels, and no one would have ever guessed that I loved math and chemistry. Throughout most of high school and college, I was always asked if I was going to drop out because I loved participating in pageants and modeling as a hobby.
Best science/health-related experience? At my university, I hold a board position for Project Sunshine. Project Sunshine is a national-level nonprofit organization that provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children and families living with medical challenges. My role in the organization is that I get students involved by fundraising and performing biweekly hospital trips.
My best health-related experience was when I met a young boy who had been in the hospital for over ten years. Before I went into the room, his father had stopped me and said that he had reached a plateau and just stopped communicating with everyone and just would not speak. He had asked me to just try to get him interested in whatever activity I had planned for that day. I kept trying to get the young boy to speak to me or act interested but it just wasn’t happening. When I began to get discouraged he finally asked me to take him to the game room and play PlayStation with him. After my visit, the young boy thanked me and told me he hoped to see me again soon. His father told me that I was the first person that he had spoken to in months and that he was very thankful for my visit.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self? I would tell myself not to care what others think and to do what truly makes you happy. I always had self-esteem issues to the point where I wouldn’t do something without other people’s approval because I was so afraid that I would be judged or people would make fun of me. When I finally realized that what other people thought of me didn’t matter, I became much happier as a person and noticed that I started making stronger relationships with not only my friends but my family as well.
Science Cheerleader Hilary here, coming to you with an exciting update about my hometown heroes the New England Patriots Cheerleaders! As the Patriots prepare to host the Jaguars in the AFC Championship game, the Patriots Cheerleaders are working hard on the sidelines and off the field! Below are the amazing women who you’ll see on screen, who also do amazing things in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics between games! Keep a look out for these powerful ladies next week! (Photo Credits: New England Patriots) Click on a photo to read an interview with the “science cheerleader!”
Allison: Health Education
Bella: Applied Psychology
Jenna: Electrical Engineer
Michaela: Doctor of Physical Therapy
Melissa: Nutrition and Dietetics
And be sure to check out the rest of the New England Patriots Cheerleaders pursuing careers in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering fields below!
Here’s another reason to catch the NFC Championship game! Five of the Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders are pursuing STEM careers! (Photo Credits: Minnesota Vikings) Curious to learn about the Science Cheerleaders on the Philadelphia Eagles, their opponents? Click here.