Chemistry Student Promotes Interest in STEM among Women

Story by Alison Veresh
Photo Courtesy of Sophie Bedford 

Senior Sophie Bedford and her former roommate, senior Hannah Brinkman, established the Society for Women in STEM, Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics, last spring to create a place where women of all STEM disciplines could meet.

“I think the best way to promote interest in STEM for women is to lead by example. Without a role model, it is very hard to imagine yourself in a position, and aspire in a certain role,” Bedford said.

The organization promotes interest in STEM among women and encourages students to continue pursuing it.

“I look up to all female scientists that came before me and will come after me.  I respect famous scientists for their discoveries, but even more for the example they set and continue to set for young women everywhere,” Bedford said.

Cultivating a Community 
The Society for Women in STEM has organized events on and off campus to inspire women to go into STEM careers.

At CMU, the organization has hosted panels with female professors and graduate students. Participants shared their experiences in the STEM field and answered any questions students had.

The society also visited a local middle school where they preformed a chromatography experiment with the girls. Bedford believes that middle school girls are most at risk to lose interest in STEM fields because they are influenced by stereotypes and peer pressure to be liked.

To combat stereotypes that girls should not be interested in STEM coursework, Bedford suggests schools create all-girl classes in mathematics and science during middle school.

During sixth grade, Bedford attended all-girl science and math classes, and these classes were influential to her adolescence and strengthened her interest in STEM.

A Life with Science
Bedford has worked with Dr. Tecklenburg of the Chemistry Department studying the effects of magnesium salts on bone growth. She is currently working with Dr. Rakesh in the Mathematics department doing molecular modeling to simulate the effects of reactions. The research aims to improve a commonly used chemotherapy drug.

Bedford studies chemistry and plans to pursue a Ph.D. when she graduates. She aspires to become a professor of organic chemistry and do research in environmental chemistry and molecular modeling. She is also the vice president of the American Chemical Society on campus and is a part of the Delta Phi Epsilon sorority.

“Chemistry gives you the tools necessary to solve big problems and once you learn the basic facts, every question becomes a puzzle to solve and that is exciting. The next big step is learning how to ask questions and find the problems that chemistry can solve, and I am also excited for that.”