Chemistry, crime and careers

By Shraddha Patnala

The power of DNA evidence is incalculable. A tiny drop of blood, a hair or a hint of a fingerprint can help solve and track a wide range of illegal activities. 

Dr. Jeanita Pritchett from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S.A, encouraged the audience at her lecture to think about forensic science a little differently. She spoke about the need for greater representation of women and minorities in science and technology to improve global standards of research and development.

With a young audience at hand, Dr. Pritchett told them what opportunities a high school career or a degree in science, particularly in Chemistry, can bring. The range extends from research and development to consultancy and academics – and for those who were wondering, the salary for a PhD graduate can even reach $101,000.

“Take advantages of opportunities!” she says. Confidence, professional communication and experience will improve the resume if students can ask for and take up internships in their field of interest - making the C.V unique and varied from the beginning will improve employability together with knowledge.

As minority woman in the US, Dr. Pritchett understood the importance of mentoring. Working as a mentor in the Women in Science and Engineering program taught her how much this can mean to a young woman who is starting out, also supporting her in her passion for academics.

Work involves a multitude of projects. Being a part of NIST, she ensures that others’ measurements have an international standard to work from. NIST is the oldest physical sciences laboratory which has strong authority on calibration of scientific equipment. The Institute also works on detecting explosives under the ground – making it a breakthrough in defense against terrorism and useful in war ravaged countries.

By increasing community outreach, NIST plans to “take science to them”. The STEM education curriculum envisions a “STEM into STEAM” project, where science and art collaborate and communicate science.

Dr. Jeanita Pritchett concluded her talk by giving the audience three key points on how to make it big in the world of science: strive for quality education, make the best use of opportunities, set goals and take steps to achieve them.  

Breaking the physical barriers has been achieved, now it’s time to begin breaking down the mental barriers women and minorities place for themselves in the field of science and technology.  

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