We are happy to be able to share excerpts from an interview between a STEM mentor, Vandhana and an aspiring STEM student, Lavanya.
Vandhana Raghavan holds a Postgraduate in Chemistry, Professionally Qualified Educator (Msc.BEd).Currently she teaches Chemistry to High School students @ Swami Vivekanand Junior College, Mumbai, India
Interviewer is Lavanya, a High School STEM student in Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai. She wishes to major in Engineering. She is happy and proud to pursue STEM and is passionate about propagating STEM among girls.
When you were ready for college, what prompted you to select the science stream? Was it something you knew you always wanted to do?
I was ready for college, around 15 years of age. I chose to pursue science subjects in college because I was aware of the infinite possibilities in this field and the scope for research and development. I wasn't very sure of what I wanted to do but it was relatively safer for me to start off with the science stream. since one can get an MBA and switch fields. One of my science teachers in school was one of the major inspirational and motivational factors.
After a postgraduate degree in Chemistry, what motivated you to pursue teaching as a profession when most women steer towards medicine as their occupation choice?
There is a stigma in India against the teaching profession. It is not considered to be a lucrative option, but when I actually started teaching, I found it to be extremely satisfying and I thoroughly enjoyed the work and truly loved what I did in terms of encouraging young people.
Who do you mainly mentor?
I teach chemistry to students in grades 11 and 12. I, personally, love teaching teenagers as they give me energy. Among the very many reasons is the desire to a good role model for my science students. My main goal is to help my students to reach the best of their abilities and to ensure progress. Even though my students come from various socio-economic backgrounds, I do not discriminate against any of them and make them realise that they do matter.
Do you have any Eureka moments in your career?
When a lot of my students get admissions into universities of their choice and more importantly into the courses of their choice, I feel truly overjoyed. I also consider the smiles that come over the students' faces when they finally grasp a difficult topic or concept at the end of my lecture, as a Eureka moment.