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#STEMStories: Marguerite, AAAS Science, Technology Policy Fellow, Washington

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.

My name is Marguerite Matthews and I am a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow working at the National Institutes of Health in the Office of the Director. Prior to doing science policy work, I was a neuroscience researcher.

2) How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I learned about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships during my time in graduate school. Once I knew there was an option to use my scientific research background to learn about and influence federal policymaking, I started seeing the value in my translating my education and training to work outside of the laboratory. I found it quite empowering to know that there was a need to apply my science knowledge to addressing societal challenges.

3) What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

Having a voice in my work environment, being able to make important contributions to my agency and my community, and working with a passionate group of people excite and inspire me to go to work every day.

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

Thanks to therapy, I now prioritize my happiness and mental wellness above all else! So I regularly engage in activities that relax me or that I enjoy, such as spending time with family and friends, getting a manicure, going to the movies. The more I invest in caring for myself, the less stress I experience or tolerate.

When it comes to feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty, I often have to remind myself that I am smart, capable, and just flat out dope! Sometimes it takes looking at my CV and/or talking to my mentors and support system to recognize that my experience, my voice, and my work has value.

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

There are many people I admire and who inspire me on my professional journey. My dad, and his love for knowledge and inquiry, is an especially prominent source of inspiration for me as a scientist. However, there is no single person whose life or career I have modeled my own after. Rather, I’ve had a series of people in my life who have helped me realize the goals I’ve set for myself as I have moved along the path to self-discovery of what I want to do professionally.

6) What is your experience of being a woman in the technology industry?

Being a woman of color in STEM hasn’t been without its challenges but has largely been a positive experience for me. Almost every mentor I’ve had – male and female – have guided me along the path and taught me how to advocate for myself and to be strong and confident, even when I may be the only one who looks like me in the room. I meet so many women and young girls who are often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers for one reason or another and it saddens me to know that they haven’t had the access to STEM opportunities or mentorship that I have to allow me to flourish and choose based on my own desire and not the presumptions of others.

7) What advice would you give to young women entering the STEM field?

BE YOURSELF! Be bold and daring in your pursuit of anything that makes you hunger to learn more. And be assured that there are people out there who want you to succeed and reach your highest potential. Because your authentic-c, curious-, and determined-self is what we need to change and advance science and technology.

8) How do you measure your success?

I don’t measure my success, exactly. I set goals for myself and I aim to achieve them. Not achieving any given goal doesn’t necessarily signal lack of “success”. And “failure” can often a sign of progress towards my goal(s). As long as I am growing my expertise, generating new ideas, creating or improving opportunities, all to make contributions to my field and my community, I am succeeding.