"I Can See Myself in STEM" Ambassador Profile - Geeta Mehta

Geeta Mehta

Associate Professor
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Personal statement:

I grew up in a middle income family in which education was paramount to a bright future. My family lived in the mountains (Himalayas) in north India. From a very young age, my parents emphasized education for me and my siblings. I excelled in academics all through my primary education. Chemistry and Mathematics were my favorite subjects. As a result, I earned a Bachelor's degree (honors) in chemical engineering. During the last two years of my undergraduate education, I was still yearning for more educational and hands-on activities in higher education. These aspirations led me to MS and PhD degrees in US.

Tell us a little bit about the work you do:

Creating in vitro (outside the body) environments that march the key features of the in vivo (inside the body) tissues, and can be personalized, has been one of my major goals throughout my career. These in vitro models not only advance fundamental biological studies, but also are applied towards finding novel and more efficient personalized therapies against diseases such as ovarian cancers. I have utilized my extensive experience in creating 3D in vitro model systems, modulating properties of the extracellular matrix, and using quantitative cell biological tools towards studying breast and ovarian cancers. Overall, my research demonstrates the applicability of engineering tools in providing fundamental and novel biological insights about complex tissues, effective testing of pharmacological agents, personalizing medicine, and developing new treatment modalities.

What types of things interested you when you were a kid?

I was interested in and am still interesting in the "how", "what" and "why" questions, in that order. This probably explains my engineering education.

What were your favorite subjects in school?

Chemistry, Mathematics

Did you face any barriers or challenges growing up? What were they?

Gender (female), patriarchal culture, limited family income, father away for long periods of time (armed forces), religious upbringing

What type of advice do you have for girls who are interested in pursuing a STEM career?

Don't be afraid of challenging courses and concepts. Keep practicing and trying. Don't internalize the negative messages about your ability and potential, that come form anyone including your own self-doubt. Find mentors, and keep them updated regularly, and ask for advice regarding technical as well as life skills.

What do you think is one important piece of information you would like to share with our audience?

As you step towards your career and professional goals, keep trying, persist, and anticipate failure. You will succeed, and in the process you will gain new knowledge of how to not fail.

Is there any additional information you would like to share with our visitors?

Perseverance and action are important. These inspirational quotes from much wiser women tell it much better.

"One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else's survival guide." - Brene Brown

"All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you." - Octavia Butler

"Have a bias toward action - let's see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away." - Indira Gandhi

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