Marissa Buck is pursuing her chemical engineering degree from the University of Florida. Here she shares a little about her career and the inspiration behind it.
What is your specific area of STEM?
How would you explain your STEM field to young girls?
Chemical engineers use chemistry, math, and physics to make products that are used around the world. Chemicals are in everything - food, makeup, clothing, medicine, gasoline - and chemical engineers are needed to make a large amount of these products for all the people who use them.
What traits might a child possess that may indicate an interest or aptitude for your STEM field?
I really enjoyed puzzles, building things from legos, putting together furniture with my dad, and drawing/painting. The puzzles enhanced critical thinking skills that are important for engineering. The arts helped develop creativity that is important for finding innovative solutions to problems. The hands-on activities showed how I liked to know how things were made, and I liked being a part of that process. Engineers get to be a part of that creation process for many different things.
What did you know about your STEM field when you were a child?
I did not know what engineering was a child. I learned about STEM in the 6th grade when my science teacher told the girls about a STEM program at a local university. They took girls in for a day and did various science experiments at the university. It was a fun, engaging day and it made the girls interested in the science behind it all.
In the 8th grade, a speaker at a Mathletes competition spoke about engineering. He gave out pamphlets and I read a little about it. Originally I looked into environmental engineering because I was all about being green. It wasn't until 11th grade when I fell in love with chemistry and heard about chemical engineering from college pamphlets.
Why did you choose your STEM field? Were you inspired by someone?
I really enjoyed chemistry and math, but I did not want to be in a lab all day. I wanted to see products being made, and I wanted to be a part of that process. Chemical engineering was the best fit. Entering a male dominant field made me feel proud to show that women can succeed in engineering.
What are some really cool things that people in your profession work on?
Chemical engineers make the foods and drinks that you love- Kraft macaroni and cheese, Lays potato chips, Tropicana orange juice, Hershey's chocolate, etc.
Also, chemical engineers help make the plastic and packaging that the food has to go into. Almost all packaged food has a chemical engineer helping to make it. They help make the flavor and make sure it stays consistent so every bite tastes as good as the last. They also do customer surveys to find out the flavors people like the best and flavors they want to have in the future.
The packaging is also impressive with many machines that can melt plastic into different shapes, sizes, and textures in order to fit the food or drinks going inside.
What inspirational message would you give young girls to inspire them to pursue STEM?
Don't be afraid to do what you enjoy. Science is not a boy subject; it is for everyone. Science is not a nerdy subject; it is essential to everyday life
Thank you for contributing, Marissa!
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