Kimberly Woznack is Professor in Department of Chemistry & Physics at California University of Pennsylvania, She is also Chair of American Chemical Society (ACS) Women Chemists Committee (WCC). She is Coordinating Editor and Contributing Author of Mom the Chemistry Professor (2nd ed.).
Tell us about your background
I have always been interested in science and how things (both living and non-living) were structured and how they functioned. My father was an optometrist and I loved examining his plastic models of eye-balls and dissecting cow eyes with him at local schools. While my first interest was in anatomy, I developed a love for chemistry as an undergraduate when I realized that everything and every organism was made of the elements on the periodic table.
I earned my B.S. in chemistry from Hartwick College and my Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I served as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of New Hampshire, focused on chemical education research, before I began my tenure-track position at California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U). I have been at Cal U since 2004, served as the chair of the department, and have now earned promotion to full professor here.
As a faculty member, I enjoy working directly with undergraduate students in the lab and with undergraduate researchers. Mentoring them as they design a research project, execute the laboratory work and interpret the results of their experiments is very highly rewarding. I very much enjoy watching them cross-over from novice to expert on their projects.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman in STEM?
Thanks to so many courageous women in STEM who have come before us, the situation for women in STEM has been improving. There are still many potential challenges for women in STEM including: sexual harassment, conscious and unconscious biases, access to promotions and positions of leadership, as well as fair, safe, and appropriate arrangements and accommodations for women whose positions involve lab work while they are pregnant and breastfeeding.
What advice would you give to young women interested in a career in STEM?
Seek Mentors: I have had the great fortune of meeting and working with many incredible people along my career path. I would trust your gut instincts about people when you meet them. You can usually tell in a few short interactions whether someone will be a supportive supervisor or ally. Surround yourself with both male and female mentors who share your vision and your values.
Find Committed Collaborators: Working with someone else who cares about projects as much as you do can have such a synergistic effect. While some scientists would classify themselves as introverts, it is important for your science to talk to other people about your work. You never know when you might meet someone and have a short conversation, which can have a large impact on your work or career path.
Pay it Forward: Sometimes you may encounter situations or be up against statistics that don’t seem like they are in your favor. If you value equity for women in STEM find a way you can join in efforts to support fellow women in STEM. Join one of many professional organizations or societies who work towards raising awareness and positive changes for women in the STEM workforce.