This week’s #WCWinSTEM is Dr. Arlyne Simon, a biochemical engineer, inventor (THREE patents!?!), entrepreneur and children’s book author!
As compiled by Léolène Carrington, Ph.D.
We are honored to have Dr. Arlyne Simon tell us her story as this week’s #WCWinSTEM. Given her prolific work in so many categories, we know there’s lots to learn from her. The responses may be edited for content and brevity.
Where did/do you go to school?
Ph.D., Macromolecular Science and Engineering, University of Michigan
B.Sc., Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
What do you do right now?
I am a Senior Research and Development Engineer at Becton Dickinson. I work with a cross-disciplinary team of engineers and business professionals to design and commercialize hypodermic syringes. As a Global Health PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) Fellow, I mentored lab technologists at both the Nyamira County Referral Hospital and JM Kariuki Ol’Kalou Hospital in Kenya.
Notably, I implemented several quality improvement activities in both labs: 1) instilled a culture of biosafety and biosecurity by delivering continuing medical education talks to hospital and laboratory staff, 2) assisted staff in equipment validation of key laboratory equipment, including chemistry analyzers and 3) mentored staff on writing standard operating procedures for clinical assays.
What made you choose your STEM discipline in the first place?
“I love using my engineering degree to create next-generation technologies that lead to better disease diagnoses.”
Without highly accurate diagnostic tests, doctors are unable to pinpoint patient’s ailments and therefore cannot administer the right therapeutic treatment. Based on my interest, interdisciplinary degree programs in biochemical engineering was a good fit.
And piece of advice you wish you had when you started your STEM journey?
“The urge to quit is strongest when you are closest to the finish line. So when you feel that urge coming, just push on a little harder.”
Do you have any woman of color in STEM sheros? Who and why?
Erica Douglas is a cosmetic scientist and I like that she uses her chemical engineering degree to create cosmetics for people of color.
Dr. Patricia Bath is the inventor of the Laserphaco laser probe, which improves cataract surgery. I like that she has Trinidadian roots.
What else are you passionate about?
I have also written a beautiful picture book, empowering little girls of color to pursue a STEM career and I am currently seeking a publisher.
Head’s up #VSVillage! Know anyone that can help Dr. Simon publish her book? Let us know!
Why do you think it’s important to highlight women of color in STEM?
Highlighting women of color in STEM challenges gender and race stereotypes. As women of color in STEM, we are often the “only one” in classrooms, project teams or conferences. That experience can feel awfully isolating. #VanguardSTEM serves an unmet need by creating an online support system for STEM women who are forging their path in pertinent scientific disciplines. Lastly, “you cannot be what you cannot see.”
“When little girls of color see other women who look like them, working as scientists and engineers, they will be inspired to pursue STEM careers also.”
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
In 2013, I was a finalist in the Collegiate Inventor’s Competition for the development of a blood test that detects bone marrow transplant rejection in cancer patients. I have three patents and I am the co-founder of an NSF-funded biotechnology startup – PHASIQ, whose technology quantifies protein biomarkers in body fluids. This March, I am featured as a female innovator in the Women’s History Month Exhibit at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA. Go check it out!
Are there institutions, groups or organizations you would like to give a shoutout to?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office
Thank you, Dr. Simon, for your consistent leadership and innovation in advancing healthcare technologies and breaking down barriers so that other women of color in STEM can too!
*All images courtesy of Dr. Arlyne Simon.
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