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#STEMStories: Chinmayi, STEM Advocate, USA

#STEMStories: Chinmayi, STEM Advocate, USA

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

My name is Chinmayi Balusu. I’m a 17-year-old undergraduate student at Columbia University pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in the life sciences. I’m passionate about neuroscience and its interdisciplinary connections. In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry, exploring nature, practicing taekwondo, and exploring new music.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

When I was young, I loved playing detective. Solving mysteries or puzzles was one of my favorite things to do, and it translates really well to science. Science is a never-ending journey to learn more and more and more, and I love that there are always questions to be solved!

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

Science is about more than just one individual person or one individual topic on its own. I enjoy going into the lab each day because I look forward to spending time with my peers and mentors, some of the most impactful people in my life. I love being able to develop a project further and further every single day. Being able to see that slow and steady process of learning (and self-discovery in a sense!) drives me.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Taekwondo and sleep! Going to taekwondo practice at the end of the day (or even squeezing in small workouts in between things) truly helps clear my mind--it’s a nice way to conclude in the evenings and spend some time for myself. I try my best to get eight hours of sleep a night. Sometimes it isn’t possible due to work, but I prioritize sleep as much as possible!

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

My mother is a wonderful role model. She was the first female engineer from her town in India, and after moving to the United States, she worked tremendously and made amazing advancements. My mom has been one of my strongest supports throughout my education, and I always appreciate her dedication to helping me succeed and achieve to the best of my abilities. She is always my go-to person for insightful advice!

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Finding your perfect niche will take time but the journey makes it worth the back-and-forth doubt. You’ll end up exploring your personality in the process of exploring your diverse interests!

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. At some points, you might be your only advocate. It will be difficult but don’t let it get to you--you are your strongest believer.
  2. Don’t pursue a career in something that people around you want you to do. It might make them happy but in the long term, it might not be likely to bring you a sense of fulfillment. Do what you love!
  3. Listen to those outrageous ideas that pop into your brain. Give them space to simmer instead of throwing them out. Be aware of the right time for expressing them and unleash them with courage.

8. How do you measure your success?

I measure my success through the number of people I’ve impacted in some way. I hope to focus my future career on giving back, whether it be through scientific research, working in a clinical setting, or community outreach. My success has been in small steps, whether it be through simply meeting someone for the first time and having a meaningful conversation with them or mentoring high school students over a longer time period

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

I amplify science-related content on my Twitter page! I’m also happy to chat more about what I’m working on over LinkedIn or email:

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Instagram: @chinmayi_balusu
Twitter: @chinmayi_balusu