The Alumni Career Panel, an annual event of the Broadcom MASTERS competition, is a distinctive opportunity for finalists to learn from and interact with previous participants of the Society’s competitions.
This year, the panelists covered everything from how to handle pressure, to finding mentors, to applying scientific skills to fields other than STEM. The talk was a welcome break from the weekend of rigorous challenges and a preview for students to see what could be their future selves.
Moderated by Maya Ajmera, President & CEO of the Society and Publisher of Science News, the panel featured many accomplished alumni: Ike Swetlitz (STS 2011), a journalist at STAT; Lily Roberts (ISEF 2007), a program analyst for Mathematica Policy Research; Shamik Das (STS 1995; ISEF 1995), Department Head of Emerging Technologies at MITRE; Trinity Russell (ISEF 2012-2013), a scientist who studies addiction at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Shiv Gaglani (ISEF 2004-2006), founder of the health education website Osmosis, a website described as the “Khan Academy for Medicine,”; Sabahat Fatima (ISEF 2017), an undergraduate electrical engineering student at University of Maryland; and Sarah Evans (ISEF 1998-1999), a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State.
The panelists provided the young MASTERS with an abundance of advice and inspiration pertinent to their lives moving forward. One particular topic they dealt with was the idea of pressure. Some poignant advice was delivered by Sarah: “When you find yourself in a really high stress situation, ask yourself, “is this life or death? If it isn’t, then you can laugh. And if it is, you can laugh after.”
Sabahat also offered some words of wisdom when she was asked about her unusual hobby—laser art. She likened her art to her science. In both, she uses whatever scraps she has lying around, whether it be making wood burnings or undergoing a science experiment—demonstrating that the most expensive resources or equipment are not always necessary. She urged the students to keep up with their hobbies. “Don’t give up what you want to do for what you think you have to do,” she said.
One opinion asked of Shamik was about contemporary work culture and the amount of time employees spend in a given position. As a man who has spent his 14-year career at one company, Shamik was uniquely qualified to answer this question.
“I’ve spent my entire time at my job, but it doesn’t feel like I’m doing the same job every day. Everyday there’s a new challenge, a new task to take on. The opportunity to find new things and always be learning has always been important to me, and I can get that with my company. As long as you find what challenges you, find it where you can.”
The Alumni Career Panel was a veritable passing of the baton to these finalists. It was a chance for the young scientists to see what they can one day become. They watched with great interest when the panel spoke about all the amazing things they were currently engaged in and have experienced; and, looking around at all the MASTERS’ faces during the panel, you could almost foresee their potential and all that they will accomplish in the future.