Ever wonder about what it takes to be a (great) Teaching Assistant (TA)? Or, what it’s like to get your PhD in Physical Chemistry? How about what it takes to be a TA while getting your PhD in Physical Chemistry?! The answer is found in three words: passion, hard work, and determination!
This week, we highlight Christiane (Chrissy) Stachl, a 25 year old first year PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley. Chrissy’s intelligence and hard work inspire us. Among her many outstanding feats, Chrissy recently received the “Teaching Effectiveness Award” for an essay she wrote and was selected by her department to receive the “2015-2016 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award” at Berkeley.
We thought it would be good to know more about the young lady behind these accomplishments, with the aim of inspiring other girls.
Below is what Chrissy had to say about herself, passion and inspiration. She also shares her advice to girls.
Chrissy’s #StrongEnough story:
- Tell us about (describe) yourself.
I was born to a Peruvian mother and Austrian father in Miami, FL. I am a Gates Millennium Scholar, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in both Chemistry and Neuroscience in 2014 from the University of Washington (UW), Seattle. My ‘unofficial third major’ at UW was traveling – I studied abroad in Italy, India, England and Scotland. These experiences made me fall in love with learning about new cultures, interacting and integrating with them, and meeting new people! I am now a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, working toward obtaining my Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. I hope to remain in academia as an educator after completing my Ph.D.
- What are your hobbies (things you enjoy doing)?
I am an avid Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba dancer! I have also been a figure skater since the age of 4, and I love traveling, hiking and just being outdoors as much as possible.
- What activities are you involved with in your community?
I am a member of the UC Berkeley Graduate Students de la Raza – a society aimed at uniting the graduate and professional communities of color at Berkeley to increase the inclusion and representation of Latin graduate students in a variety of fields. Through this society, I am a mentor for undergraduate women of color. Additionally, I am a part of Scholarship Junkies, a non-profit helps students find and apply for scholarships. I am also a volunteer at the Lawrence Hall of Science and Bay Area Scientists in Schools. Lastly, I am the outreach & social media officer for the Berkeley Chemistry Graduate Life Committee, which provides support for department of chemistry graduate students.
- Who or what inspires you?
My mum. She is, hands-down, the most inspirational person in my life. She is always happy, and can make me laugh no matter what. She can also make me believe in myself in a way that no one else can, and this motivates me to be the best that I can be – even when I feel completely overwhelmed. She is also my best friend, the strongest person I know, as well as the amazing woman who brought me into this world and fought to help me get to where I am today. So, all of my accomplishments are hers too!
- Is there something you are passionate about? If yes, what is it?
Spanish is my mother tongue, and I have always identified as a Latina. I have, on multiple occasions, been treated as a ‘lesser’ individual because of this, and thus I am passionate about helping to alleviate the ethnic segregation that women of color face on a daily basis in school or at work. Specifically, I feel very strongly about the representation of women of color in higher education, especially within STEM fields. Hispanic women in chemistry receive just 0.06% of all awarded STEM Ph.D.’s, and only 0.7% of all women with Tenured or Tenure Track faculty positions in chemistry and chemical engineering are Hispanic. This needs to change!
- What is the biggest challenge that you see facing girls in your community?
My academic trajectory after high school was definitely not the norm – I moved completely across the country to study science. Most of the people I knew told me that this was a terrible idea, and that it would be better for me to stay close to my family so that I could get an easy degree quickly and, subsequently, start my own family sooner. I never agreed with the latter mentality, and frankly, I believe this is a big issue for girls in my home community. Most young girls are never really told that they can pursue their dreams without limits, because they are expected to lead a completely family-oriented lifestyle. Thus, they are told how hard it will be to do X, or how uncomfortable they will feel in Y situation. But, they are never really told how rewarding it will feel to accomplish said task. Thus, I think it is a huge challenge for girls to take hold of their futures and confidently decide what their goals will be, without feeling the pressures associated with “womanhood”. I think young girls need to be encouraged to pursue their dreams more often, in order to become less afraid of delving deeper into whatever subject(s) they love and do well in.
- What advice would you like to share with girls in your community?
Honestly…just don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, no matter how crazy they seem. And, please do not let anyone convince you that you cannot succeed just because you are a girl. Or for any other reason, actually!
- Who is your favorite female leader/role model, and why?
Frida Kahlo. She was a Mexican artist who unapologetically did what her body desired so that she could experience her life to the fullest. I think she is a great role model because she never succumbed to the bounds of the “idealized woman”. She inspires me to do what makes me happy, and this has led me to become a successful woman in STEM that can hopefully to inspire other young women to do the same!
- What do the words “Strong Enough” mean to you?
Being “Strong Enough” to follow your heart and your dreams, no matter what obstacles are in your way 🙂
- Do you have a favorite quote/verse/song lyric?
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” –Maya Angelou
Thanks for being ah-mazing, Chrissy! We are proud of you and we celebrate you as a #StrongEnoughGirl. Continue to pursue your dreams without limits and pave the way for other girls. You go you, Chrissy!
*Do you know an outstanding young lady (aged 13-25 years) in your community? Recommend her to be featured. Send an e-mail to [email protected] with the subject line “SEG of the Week.”*