Women in STEM Career panel opens up conversation about working women

Tien Nguyen

The Association for Women in Science at UT launched their inaugural event, the Women in STEM Career Panel, on Monday. The panel drew the attention of dozens of students as they came to hear four women in nonacademic STEM careers discuss their experiences.

“Our goal is to expose students to the different career opportunities in STEM,” said Sophia Sanchez, the president of AWIS at UT.

Sanchez said as an undergraduate student, she did not have exposure to the different career opportunities outside of academia. Now, as a neuroscience graduate student, she said she hopes to help change that.

“We want to connect girls and women here with women in Austin (who are) in STEM professions other than academia,” Sanchez said. “Here at UT, we have a large network of academics, but we wanted to reach out beyond that.”

Panelist Verena Kallhoff manages the Texas Health CoLab at Dell Medical School. She works with startup companies and uncovers opportunities for them to collaborate with the clinicians and researchers at Dell Med and across UT’s campus.


“I am incredibly passionate about helping women find their career in the sciences,” Kallhoff said. “I grew up in a family where I wasn’t encouraged to pursue higher education, but ended up doing it anyway.”

Kallhoff said even though her current career is very different from what she studied, she still uses the skills she developed as a student.

“I wanted a career where I could still utilize the education that I had (received),” Kallhoff said. “My Ph.D. is in molecular and human genetics, and today, I don’t use my studies but I do use a lot of the tools I’ve gained.”

Kallhoff said she wanted to show female science students the possibility of career options outside of academia.

“I like to be vocal about my path to show that I’ve gone a different route,” Kalhoff said. “Focus on the tools you have, like organization skills, data analysis and teamwork. These are tools that science graduate students naturally develop.”

Mechanical engineering sophomore Areej Ahmad attended the event and said she could connect to the panelists’ stories.

“It’s refreshing to see how successful these women are,” Ahmad said. “Now I know what options I have in the future.”