By Hanna Tso –
Sometimes I still wonder how different my life would be if I hadn’t attended the GIRL Career Conference that one Saturday six years ago. At the time, I was a high school junior with a budding interest in health and the biomedical sciences, but had no exposure to these fields. In the fall, I was forwarded an email from my school counselor with information about a GIRL Career Conference with a spotlight on STEM and related careers. Curious to learn more, I signed up to spend four hours on a Saturday at the event.
Little did I know that one of the speakers, a representative from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), had come specifically to encourage girls to intern at the NIH to gain experience in health and biomedical research! After her talk, I approached her to ask about finding an internship at the NIH for the next summer. We stayed in touch after the conference, and she connected me to the Training Liaison in her office, who connected me to my future boss and mentor. Within a month after the conference, this positive snowball effect led to my securing a summer research internship position.
Since then, I have interned at the NIH for five summers throughout the rest of high school and college. The NIH has given me the opportunity to work on cutting-edge biomedical research with some of the best minds in the field. The highlights of my internships have been meeting other interns, working on a retinal tissue engineering project, and observing several brain surgeries. Most important of all, I developed a passion for medicine and gained confidence in my abilities.
Now six years after the GIRL conference, I recently graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Engineering. This fall, I am thrilled to begin attending the Indiana University School of Medicine to become a doctor! I am so grateful to GIRL for being the initial spark that made my NIH internship experiences possible. On a single day, the GIRL Career Conference helped me to make a connection that has since opened so many doors for me. I am humbled by the investment that GIRL has made in me, whether it knew it at the time or not.
While organizations like GIRL offer incredible resources to girls, I also want to encourage girls to be proactive about seeking out opportunities. My story wouldn’t be the same if I had not attended the conference or approached the NIH speaker when I was there. One of my favorite quotes is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I am so happy that GIRL came knocking at my door and even happier that I opened it.