Editor’s Note: In anticipation of our upcoming GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event on Feb. 8, we interviewed several women who have pursued careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. Last week, we interviewed Air Liquide’s Victoria Rockwell. This week we’re featuring Celeste Poorte, Butterfly Rearing Coordinator at the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
HMNS: How old were you when you first became interested in science, technology, engineering, or math?
Poorte: As far back as I remember, I was always interested in the natural world. Once I got to high school, my interest in science really became solidified.
HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
Poorte: Spending a lot time outside as a young child exposed me to interesting plant and animal life. In 9th grade I had a wonderful biology teacher that really inspired me to pursue biology.
HMNS: What was your favorite science project when you were in school?
Poorte: In 9th grade we did a project where we observed the micro-organisms found in a collection of pond of water and recorded our results and identified the species. That was my favorite because it was incredible to see how many living creatures there were in a tiny speck of water.
HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science, technology, engineering, or math?
Poorte: I am the Butterfly Rearing Coordinator at the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. This relates to science because I use my knowledge of butterflies and their life cycles in order to raise them.
HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Poorte: The best part of my job is that I don’t have to spend my time at a computer all day. I get to spend a lot of time outside in the greenhouses working directly with the butterflies and caterpillars.
HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Poorte: In my spare time I like to spend time with friends, read books, and take my dog to the dog park.
HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career?
Poorte: Go to college. Aim high. Pick a subject that you are passionate about for your major and stick with it. Get as much extra experience outside the classroom as you can, like internships. Meet and talk to as many people in your field of interest as you can while you are still in school. This will definitely help you find a job once you get your degree.
HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like GEMS?
Poorte: An event like GEMS is a great way to expose girls to jobs that they might not otherwise even know existed. It’s a great way to get the information out and for them to meet real-life women who actually have STEM careers. When I was in middle school, I attended a GEMS-like event and it was a great experience for me.