I didn’t Choose the STEM life — the STEM Life Chose Me: How I Fell into Being a Cosmetic Chemist
“I couldn’t get away from the idea that being a scientist was an actual thing.”
~ Jasmine Johnson
By Jasmine Johnson
Remember why you started.
Often times when you’re enduring a journey that seems tough, remember why you started is the mantra that comes to mind. At this point in my journey, remembering why I started isn’t important because I’m facing obstacles in STEM, but because I have accomplished a milestone that I wanted for so long, and now I know that I am capable of reaching even bigger goals. Reflecting on going from being in a high school classroom to a cosmetic chemist in a lab post-grad reminds me that working towards a long-term goal is not only attainable, but just the start.
Before STEM was a major part of my life, I wanted to be in the beauty and fashion industry because I loved reading magazines; I had every issue of every mainstream magazine and lived for America’s Next Top Model.
In school, I was known as a great writer; English was always my favorite class and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t hide the fact that I was a bookworm. With my interest, I just knew that I was going to be a journalist and was set on it all through high school. It wasn’t until my junior year, when I took Honors Chemistry that the possibility of having STEM in my life beyond high school was even a thought.
I was intimidated by the words “honors” since I was never an “AP” student or considered myself one of the “smart girls.” Chemistry was different. Everyone hated double lab periods and conversions, but not only did I enjoy it — I did extremely well.
I ended up being a top student in Chemistry, which boosted my confidence and lead me to gravitate towards a supportive teacher who encouraged me to dig deeper into the subject. This was the beginning of my journey in STEM.
Once I was in it, I couldn’t get away from the idea that being a scientist was an actual thing. You “see it” with Bill Nye the Science Guy or the legendary physicist Einstein, but with the power of the Internet, I realized that there was more to science than older white men.
Intense Google searches helped me realize that the hair products I obsess over, the beauty products I read reviews about in some of my favorite magazines, and the mascara I steal from my mom’s purse STEM (pun intended) from a STEM occupation, it changed my mindset on what I wanted and thought I was capable of accomplishing.
From that point of sitting in front of my computer and through the power of one high school chemistry class and my interest in beauty, my unique journey to STEM came about. My path to science was never because I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid or because of a deep desire to fill a void in scientific understanding; my interest in STEM fell into my lap.
If you’re reading this, the STEM life is something you may or may not have expected, but when you need the galvanizing energy to take the next step in your STEM journey or you’re contemplating what’s next, remember why you started.
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
All rights reserved. The content above or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of #VanguardSTEM except for the use of brief quotations, with attribution, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to #VanguardSTEM, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at email@example.com