University of Denver students, professor working to encourage more women to enter STEM fields

Growing up, Breigh Roszelle never gave going into a technology related field a second thought.

“I was pretty good at math and my dad was an engineer,” she told Denver7’s Lisa Hidalgo. “So I think I just had that natural idea ‘oh that’s something cool I could do.’”

Roszelle is now a professor of mechanical materials engineering at the University of Denver.  She knows she had an advantage not many other young girls have.

“You know a lot of girls are never really exposed to this information,” she said. “They don’t even know what an engineer does and all of a sudden they are going to college and they don’t even think about engineering.”

Young women can learn more about the opportunities in STEM education at the Colorado Girls Elevated: Reach Your Peak expo in Aurora on Sunday, April 23.  Follow the link for information on how to register for free tickets.

The numbers are staggering.  Only one in five engineering students at DU is female.

“During undergrad there were nine girls total in my class and there were 50 students when we graduated,” grad student Megan Puryear said.

More schools are focusing on STEM education starting as early as elementary school.  STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Still, for some of these college students, the idea of going into the engineering or computer science fields was not one that came to mind right away.

“I dabbled around in other things like event management, business studies,” Sneha Sawlani said.  “I started programming as a hobby and I looked up online for resources and started to code just for fun.  I realized it is very engaging, mentally very stimulating. It also pays quite well.”

Junior Lexie Hermosura said she didn’t know what computer science was until she came to college.  She says there are advantages to being one of the few females in the field.

 “It's kinda cool because it helps me know a lot of people in general because I do stick out because I am a girl,” she said.

Lexis is also doing her part to encourage more young girls to get into the field by tutoring at an elementary school.   

“I teach them about what I do,” she said.  “I tell them that computer science is a thing. I can code games, I can make really cool things just by typing something into my laptop.  I would like to make computer science and STEM more known at a younger age because I didn’t find out about it until I was 17.”

The students say the other key is going with your gut.

“If you're interested in math and science just do it, do not let anything hold you back because there is so much out there that you may not realize now,” Megan added. “I think the challenge for a lot of women is to have the confidence to own the fact I know what I'm doing, I've earned this just like anyone else has and now I'm going to own it.”

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Young women can learn more about the opportunities in STEM education at the Colorado Girls Elevated: Reach Your Peak expo in Aurora on Sunday, April 23.  Follow the link for information on how to register for free tickets.

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