Charlie Chesney, 29 – FUNDED

With a B.Sc. in Biology/Zoology from San Francisco State University and an M.Sc. in Biodiversity, Conservation, and Management from the University of Oxford already completed, Charlie Chesney is now a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Studies department at University of California, Santa Cruz. The accomplished Paliwal Club of 100 STEAM Scholars Fund winner not only is passionate about developing innovative solutions to environmental problems, she wants to help guide the next generation of women in STEAM.

What is your professional dream?

I hope to lead interdisciplinary teams to research and develop innovative solutions to environmental problems. I want to also help high school, community college, and undergraduate women develop STEAM skills and explore their career options.

What does being in the Paliwal Club of 100 mean to you? 

It is a wonderful honor and an opportunity to connect with and learn from other women in STEAM. It means being included in a network of bright and motivated women, creating the potential for future collaborations and being inspired by each other’s dreams and accomplishments. It also means being a part of the important work to uplift and support women in their pursuit of careers in STEAM.

Women are underrepresented in the S.T.E.A.M. (science, tech, arts or math) fields and music industry. How can we change this? 

Normalizing women in STEAM is key to increasing representation. This can be achieved by teaching young girls that women can be in any career they choose by incorporating various STEAM careers in toys and books, such as dolls, playsets, and picture books that depict women in STEAM.

Increasing the number of role models in STEAM can also be accomplished through teachers, guest lectures, field trips, and career days. Programs for high school, community college, and undergraduate women should help women learn and practice STEAM skills while providing career development. These programs should also not cost the participants money and, ideally, would pay these women a stipend to participate, thereby reducing barriers to entering STEAM.

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

When I was 10, a friend’s father told me that I would not get into my dream university. This discouragement stayed with me for years and I struggled with imposter syndrome and lack of confidence in science classes. I also didn’t know what careers existed within STEAM and how to pursue them. As a Ph.D. student, I’ve struggled with maintaining a work-life balance and having to choose between graduate school and relationships.

How will this grant from the 1,000 Dreams Fund help you reach your goals?

This grant will help me purchase necessary equipment for my Ph.D. research experiments, which helps me become more interdisciplinary by learning about engineering and plant sciences.