Belinda is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, where she pursued a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology. She has strong interests in medical research. Belinda has had the opportunity to work on research at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research-Ghana, Emotion-Focused Therapy Lab-Ontario, and Mount Sinai Hospital. She is also passionate about youth empowerment. She believes that the economic and social development of any community hinges greatly on the transformational leadership of its youth.
Why did you get into STEM?
I got into science because I was fascinated and excited by how it shapes our everyday experiences. Science is everywhere; it’s in the emotions that we feel, the way we behave and interact with others and so many more. In high school, the few science classes I had on human anatomy and physiology got me interested in the human brain. How does the brain work? Does the brain change? Do our genes influence the mechanisms and/or functions of the brain? These are some of the questions that led me to major in neuroscience at the university; and psychology because I wanted to understand how brain mechanisms and structures influenced our mental processes and behavior.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Getting the opportunity to study and train in a discipline that I am passionate about at the University of Toronto on a full scholarship. I have been exposed to a huge repertoire of what’s available to learn, diverse communities and amazing opportunities to work with professionals who are experts in their fields.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
One of the challenges I have faced as a woman in STEM is that of implicit stereotype. This is when you attribute certain qualities to members of a particular group unconsciously. In most of my classes, my gender and race were greatly under-represented. I could see males dominating the higher positions/ranks in STEM. I began to think to myself, why are women not advancing in science roles like men? Is it that the competitiveness of the field is more suited to men than women? Having such implicit bias undermines the possibilities women and girls in science can have. To overcome this, I had to cultivate the mindset that the diversity I brought to neuroscience as a woman was going to lead to greater creativity, innovation and unique approaches to problem-solving. I also sought out opportunities that empowered women in the field through resources such as mentorship programs, networking events, etc.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
Find the area you are most passionate about, observe and ask a lot of questions and take advantage of all opportunities. Seek out mentors whose experiences inspire you and are supportive because women in science need other women in science.