Gabriella Tosado – STEM Super Youth Advocate: Tacoma
My love of science began when I first learned about atoms. My first-grade teacher told us about how everything is made up of small particles called atoms. My six-year-old self had a judgmental look of disbelief. I was not having it. I did not believe it was possible that everything was made of things I couldn’t see. To prove her hypothesis, she heated up a tied, deflated balloon. She said if there were gas atoms in the balloon, they would spread out because all the extra energy from the heat would force them apart. The balloon instantly started expanding, and I was in shock. I’m pretty sure my jaw dramatically dropped like a cartoon character; I’ve been fascinated by science ever since.
I fostered my love of science in high school by joining our science club and performing experiments and demos to teach kids about the basics of science. I enjoyed seeing the excitement in a child’s face when they made small explosions or their very own pickle started glowing due to a chemical reaction. I took science classes not only because I loved the topic, but because I loved the challenge of science and forming a deeper understanding of the behavior of atoms. Although I loved science, I didn’t really know what scientists did in the real world. If I were to become a scientist, I would be the first in my family. But what does a scientist’s job entail? What is their day-to-day life? How do I manage to magically find a groundbreaking medicine overnight like TV says scientists do? When I started college, I decided to become a doctor in order to use science in service of others. It seemed like the right start.
In college, I loved the open possibilities. I pretty much followed whatever educational whim I had. I took random sciences like environmental chemistry and learned about why the ozone layer in Antarctica started shrinking. The next quarter, it was an infectious disease class that walked through how scientists help solve these problems around the world. I also took a lot of religion classes like Jesus in myth and history, science and religion, and world religion because I was fascinated by how religion affects different cultures and society. I loved learning about all these different topics, but I decided that being a doctor just wasn’t for me. As I was taking these different classes, I also began to learn how our environment is changing because of global warming and how my home of Miami will be affected by rising sea levels. It was at that moment that I knew I wanted to do my part to help and contribute to a solution using science.
Fast forward to today, I have been able to combine a few of my loves. My chemistry major, my environmental science major, and my policy major have all come together, and I am now working on my Ph.D. in chemical engineering while conducting research on solar energy. I now get to explore the edges of what we know in my field and contribute my small part towards new knowledge. In addition to exploring new sciences, I really enjoy teaching science to the public. I especially enjoy inspiring young women to explore science. I know there should be more women in the field being awesome and discovering new things. I hope to work in the field of science and science communication after I graduate and help others learn about their passions for science. That’s why I’m a STEM Super Youth Advocate.
The STEM Super Advocate Blog series highlights young STEM champions from across Washington. These young people have chosen to team up with Washington STEM as we collectively advocate for high quality STEM education, career connected learning, the Next Generation Science Standards and clear STEM pathways for every student in Washington. Every month, we’ll introduce you to four Super Advocates who are working to bringing about change in their community. This work is supported by College Spark Washington.