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  • Writer's pictureEQUALS

Mentoring can open your eyes to more opportunities

Margaret Gates, 15, from Wantagh, New York, dreams of being an engineer or astrophysicist, but until 2016, she had yet to explore other STEM career opportunities. That was when her aunt, a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, told her about the Academy’s 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program, as a result of receiving a newsletter with a call for mentees and mentors for the program. She thought it would be a great opportunity for Margaret.

Margaret Gates (photo courtesy of the author)

“I researched the program and was inspired by [its] mission to engage young women interested in STEM and help them advance towards a STEM career,” Margaret said.

In 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures, girls ages 13 to 18 are paired with female STEM professionals through a virtual platform.

The students complete modules on workforce readiness skills such as communications and leadership, and receive advice from their assigned mentor.

Through this program, Margaret attended the Academy’s Challenge 2030 event in 2017, where Junior Academy Students presented their proposed ideas for achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. Their presentations amazed her and made her want to take part in solving real-world problems.

“I was impressed that these projects were sophisticated solutions that could apply to real-world problems,” said Margaret.

After completing 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures, Margaret was accepted into the 2017-2018 cohort of The Junior Academy. In this program, students work in teams with their peers from all over the world tackling global issues. Each team has an assigned mentor to help them through the step-by-step innovation process. During her time in this program, Margaret worked on two projects, the Sustainable Consumption Challenge and the Human Wildlife Challenge.

In the Sustainable Consumption Challenge, her team developed a theoretical solution for reducing plastic bottle waste. They created a plan for a collection system that could be placed in public locations. The bottles collected would then be ground into powder and compressed into a honeycomb shape making it easier for genetically modified wax worms and fungi to consume and digest the ground plastic.

For the Human Wildlife Challenge, her team created a prototype model to collect data about endangered species that could also alert authorities about human presence in protected areas where poaching often occurs.

Margaret Gates (second from left) with her STEM project team

The 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures program and The Junior Academy opened up Margaret’s eyes to STEM careers she never t realized existed. She discovered the field of particle physics and learned about genetic engineering, coding and marketing. These programs have also exposed her to global opportunities, such as Model United Nations, the possibility of working at a multinational company, and the prospect of attending college outside of the United States.

What Margaret appreciated most from her experiences was the advice from her mentors.

Her mentor from 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures provided insights on work-life balance, and how to stay organized.

Margaret also realized that there “is no straight path to your career”. Her mentor actually started as a dancer before deciding to enter the medical field. Margaret said this has given her the confidence to pursue a career in STEM. She still dreams of being an engineer or an astrophysicist, but she is excited about exploring all of her STEM career options.


The New York Academy of Sciences is an EQUALS Partner and a member of the Skills Coalition.

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