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Pristine O., 19 – FUNDED

“For as long as I can remember, I have been curious about the world around me,” says Pristine O., a Paliwal Club of 100 STEAM Scholar. “To learn more, I have loved asking questions — and the field I have found most captivating has been biology. I find it fascinating to learn about the biological processes within living things, and to also ponder how an understanding of those processes could be used to improve people’s lives.” As such, Pristine is majoring in biochemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill!

What is your professional dream?

From my strong interest in biology stemmed my interest in research. It’s through research that I can not only ask questions pertaining to biology, but subsequently pursue the answers to those questions. With these ambitions, I am interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in biological and biomedical sciences. With a Ph.D., I would then be keen to work as a biomedical researcher developing treatments to address human illnesses and conditions. The research areas I’m specifically interested in are aging and cancer, especially as they relate to space biology (the study of how biological processes are affected by spaceflight).

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

Being a part of the Paliwal Club of 100 means having the opportunity to not be held back by barriers like financial constraints as I strive toward my ambitious career goals.

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

I think it’s important that there be more women and minority representation in STEAM to encourage others — especially the younger generations. I believe that when you can see inspirational individuals who share parts of your identity, you can feel more empowered to be ambitious, too.

With the lack of female and minority space biologists I could look up to growing up, I value serving as a force empowering other women and minorities to pursue STEM, especially in an area as technical and niche as space biology. To help democratize STEM, I have shared my STEM passions in 10+ newspapers, created 5+ public videos explaining STEM concepts, and gotten 200+ youths excited about science at over 5+ STEM fairs and speaking engagements.

In addition, grants like the Paliwal Club of 100 are extremely helpful for promoting female and minority engagement in STEAM by helping to address the financial constraints that may serve as a barrier discouraging those interested in STEAM from pursuing it. For an area this technical, I think it’s invaluable that those interested in it have access to exploring the field.

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

Getting involved in a field as niche as space biology did feel a little daunting, especially given the novelty of the area and the lack and its lack of female and minority representation. However, I did not want to let these challenges dampen my excitement to explore it. By exploring space biology, I felt that I could pursue my lifelong passion for biology across new horizons.

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

The grant will be used to help me attend a space convention where I can connect with and network with inspirational, innovative individuals in the space industry as well as learn about space-related research opportunities. I would make the most of this experience to help me along my journey of pursuing space biology research as a tool to help improve the health and well-being of others.