WiSTEM holds club week


Rose Guan

University of California, San Francisco Marina Sirota shares a UCSF postdoctoral scholar’s thoughts on women in STEM. Aside from hosting Sirota on Friday, WiSTEM also screened the movie “Queen of Katwe” on Wednesday for their club week this week.

by Rose Guan and Katherine Zhang

The Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (WiSTEM) club hosted its club week this week, utilizing a variety of events and fundraising activities to promote female involvement in STEM fields.

“We really want to support women who don’t necessarily have the opportunities that are afforded to people at Harker,” treasurer Emily Chen (12) said. “By doing that through a venue that the Harker community supports, we are able to give them different educational opportunities and careers beyond what they might have been told of.”

Club officers sold Fantasia pearl milk tea for $6 and homemade brownies for $2 throughout the week in front of Manzanita to raise funds for the Women’s Institute of Secondary Education & Research (WISER), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing healthcare and education to girls in rural Kenya.

“WISER is a school in Africa in a rural area where girls often don’t get the chance to even have a chance for education, but WISER encourages leadership in the community and involvement as well as academics,” vice president Anooshree Sengupta (12) said. “From our fundraiser sales, we’re actually funding a girl’s tuition for the entire year.”

Additionally, club members invited students to attend several events, including a screening of the movie “Queen of Katwe” on Wednesday and a lecture by University of California, San Francisco professor Marina Sirota on computational drug discovery on Friday.

“Queen of Katwe,” an hour-long biographical film, tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan woman from the slum of Katwe who learned to play chess as a girl and eventually represented Uganda in the World Chess Championship. Mutesi went on to become one of the first titled female chess players in Ugandan history.

On Friday, club officers arranged for Sirota to give a talk on her research in precision medicine, a field of genetic research that attempts to optimize the benefits of treatments to specific groups of patients based on their genetic characteristics. In her speech, Sirota gave an introduction to bioinformatics research and shared her excitement surrounding new developments in the field.

“[An] area that I think will grow immensely is analysis of clinical data, like electronic medical records,” Sirota said. “When you go to the doctor, all of the diagnoses, all of the blood tests, everything that happens to a patient, is recorded in a database. Now, informatics researchers are starting to use that data to build computational predictive models. Then, putting [integrations of] different molecular data analysis methods … together with clinical data is really going to move the needle.”

WiSTEM will continue to host STEM-related events around school, such as the annual Research Symposium, while promoting other events that expose girls to STEM, such as its STEM Buddies sessions with Harker preschoolers.