STEM & GEMS, Part II: The science of raising butterflies is Celeste Poorte’s specialty

Celeste PoorteEditor’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.

STEM & GEMS, Part I: Air Liquide’s Victoria Rockwell makes the most of math in her career

FINAL-Vickie_Rockwell_smallIn anticipation of our upcoming GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event on Feb. 8, we interviewed several women who have pursued careers in math and science. This week we’re featuring Victoria Rockwell, Director of Investor Development at Air Liquide.

HMNS: How old were you when you first became interested in science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM)?
Rockwell: I was in the 4th grade and read a book on the stars. It showed pictures of the constellations. I lived in the country and when I looked up to the sky at night, the constellations were there – just like in the book!

HMNS: Was there a specific person or event that inspired you when you were younger?
Rockwell: My grandparents were immigrants from Europe and valued learning. “Learn all that you can — no one can ever take that away from you.” “Be whatever you want to be. Don’t let people tell you that you cannot.” These were the words of encouragement that I received. My role model was my mother who was a Rosie-the-Riveter-type during World War II. All her life she tried new things and careers and kept looking forward — never looking back.

HMNS: What was your favorite science project when you were in school?
Rockwell: Science projects, not so much … but I love math. I love solving mysteries, and to me, a math problem is solving a mystery. Who is X? Why does Y change things? How are they related? Did Z kill Q?

HMNS: What is your current job? How does this relate to science, technology, engineering, and/or math?
Rockwell: My current job is the Director of Investment Development at Air Liquide. There is still a lot of math involved, but we take an idea and create a new thing — a plant. It starts with an idea, an open field, engineers designing and making drawings, construction crews with hard hats and heavy equipment, digging in the dirt … and then building up, piping and tying all the pieces together. Finally the engineers start it all up — pushing the buttons to make the new products.

HMNS: What’s the best part of your job?
Rockwell: Working with a lot of smart, creative and interesting people.

HMNS: What do you like to do in your spare time?
Rockwell: I am active in engineering professional societies. As part of the work I do there, I meet with students, parents, community members, university faculty, and other engineers to tell them about the importance of engineering and science in our lives. As part of my involvement in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), I was invited to the White House three times to participate in events that promoted women and the economy. I met Mrs. Obama, the president’s science adviser, and even the President on my last visit.

HMNS: What advice would you give to girls interested in pursuing a STEM career?
Rockwell: GO FOR IT! Don’t let anyone tell you it is not for you. If you have the interest, explore it. If you stumble the first time, try again. Sometimes you are not ready to learn the first time around.

HMNS: Why do you think it’s important for girls to have access to an event like GEMS?
Rockwell: To give them the support, options and opportunities. Engineering, math and science are fun. There are mysteries to solve, things to explore that lead to new discoveries, and ways to make the world a better place.

Know a girl who’s interested in math and science? Come to GEMS (Girls Exploring Math & Science) on Sat., Feb. 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  The Museum will be filled with hands-on science and math for everyone to experience. Local professionals will be at the Museum to answer questions about their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The event is free with paid admission to the Museum. Click here for $7 admission to all permanent exhibit halls on Sat., Feb. 8.

Who run the (math and science) world? GIRLS! Join HMNS Feb. 16 for Girls Exploring Math and Science 2013

Remember when Beyoncé asked, “Who run the world?” We totally think she was on to something.

Join HMNS on February 16 for GEMS 2013, an entire day dedicated to the answer to that question — Girls Exploring Math and Science.

Join us Feb. 16 for GEMS: Girls Exploring Math and ScienceIn partnership with the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, HMNS will host an open house with local professionals on-hand to answer questions and discuss their careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. We’ll also have a variety of STEM-related activities and games, as well as informational booths on topics ranging from Mars rovers to human organs to optical illusions to the science behind skin care.

GEMS is open to girls of all ages as well as friends and family, so bring the whole crew!

What: Girls Exploring Math and Science (GEMS)
When: Saturday, Feb. 16; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: HMNS Main Campus, 5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Cost: FREE with museum admission! (Click here for a coupon for discounted general admission!)

Student booths have just been accepted for GEMS 2013. Contact educationquestions@hmns.org for more info or to learn how you can participate.

GEMS is generously supported by Air Liquide and KBR.

Save The Date: GEMS on February 11, 2012!

We had a terrific time at the Girls Exploring Math and Science event last year on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The Museum was buzzing with lots of learning – songs about kinetic and potential energy, buzzing instruments made with straws, Popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and lots of “ah-hah” moments throughout the day!

We had a fabulous presenting sponsor in KBR and two of their engineers were our featured speakers, Rachel Amos and Elaine Jimenez. Rachel and Elaine shared with the GEMS attendees a bit about their careers in Mechanical Engineering with KBR, their education, some tips for aspiring young engineers and scientists, and even a little about what they loved about math and science as kids. Interactive booths were hosted throughout the building by students, girl scout troops and local organizations and companies – there was so much to learn everywhere you turned!

Girl Scout booths have just been accepted for GEMS 2012 and there are some exciting topics and new ideas I’m very excited to see.

We’re still accepting applications from School Groups for booths and if you’re just now considering hosting a booth with your friends or opening it up to your class for extra credit it’s time to get some brainstorming going!  

What is a topic you’d like to know more about? What have you recently learned that you would want to share with your peers?

Here are a few links to sites that might inspire you for your awesome GEMS booth! Applications for school booths can be found online here at the HMNS website.

The Library of Congress – Everyday Mysteries

PBS.org’s Zoom for kids  – this link is to the engineering section but they offer lots more if you click around

How Stuff Works – go ahead – ask how it works!

Penn State College of Agricultural Science – Food Science

Exploratorium.edu - so many cool things to explore!

I’m also including some fabulous outcomes provided by some of our super star 2011 presenters, the “Truth in Numbers” group and the Rice University Association for Women in Mathmatics both presented booths on the topic of statistics and asked visitors to participate in their experiments pulling samples and recording results!

We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for GEMS 2012!

Visitors were asked by the Rice University Association of Women in Mathmatics to open a funsize bag of M&M's candies and chart how many candies of each color were included.