Lately, the growing field of psychology has been a woman-dominated field. Neuroscience, though often thought of as related to that field, has a glaring disparity with women leaving labs at a much higher rate than men and only 25 percent of female graduates placed on a tenure-track. The imbalance is arguably even starker in computer science, but none of this information has deterred Benita Jenniefer Rosalind, a rising freshman at Vassar College, from pursuing her passion.
"I plan to double major in neuroscience and computer science since one complements the other well," says Rosalind. "I've always been interested in human anatomy, but more specifically the human brain and neural pathways that affect our physiology and behavior." Although computer science is a new focus for her, she feels up for the challenge.
Rosalind is well aware of the lack of women in her field but thankfully has not experienced much discrimination because of her gender, aside from a high school teacher questioning her ability to excel in chemistry, and is encouraged by her family to pursue science. Still, she recognizes that others are not as lucky.
"When I was five, my dad brought home this red-covered book called 'Encyclopedia of Discovery: Science and History,'" Rosalind says, "and I decided to jot paragraphs and paragraphs down even if I barely understood what the book is referring to. I'd always go for books that talk about animals or anything that breathes science in bookstores, mainly because they fascinate me more than fictional novels or comic books and also because my parents were more inclined to purchase anything educational." She also gives credit for her persistence to close relatives who are "capable women pursuing their studies/careers in STEM fields."
With the support of her family and her own determination, Rosalind was awarded the Newton Award at her high school. This award is given to students who show excellence in biology as well as balance in student life.
"I'm not very open about my accomplishments but I'm really proud of this one just because it's a reminder that I can do it." Rosalind also lets this award serve as a motivator to stay focused on making positive change. One such change she hopes to accomplish is finding a cure for memory loss.
"There are moments that shape us to be who we are and simply forgetting them because of an accident or old age is devastating," she said.
Rosalind says the most rewarding thing about pursuing neuroscience and computer science is working with and getting to know people who have similar interests and ambitions. As for being a woman in science, she is appreciative that she lives in a time and place that does not outright prohibit women from getting involved with such fields.
Her advice for girls and women interested in science is as follows: "Take it from the kid who got a 4/10 back in fourth grade on plant biology and, who to this day, still hates plants, who then got an award at the end of high school for biology (despite plant biology being in the syllabus), let your work speak for yourself." Rosalind hopes that her story empowers young women who may be hesitant to become who they aspire to be.
This piece was written as part of Fresh U's bi-weekly "Young Women in Science" series. Benita Jenniefer Rosalind was our first feature.
Lead Image Credit: Jesse Orrico via Unsplash