Advice to Women in STEM: Tamar Geller and Taylor Chapman

Tamar Geller ’23 is an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science major at Yale. Her work has led her to different corners of the world: Israel, where she created an award winning poster on a transistor’s electronic properties; California, where she was a research assistant at Center for Health Policy at Stanford; and most recently, New Haven, where she does research at the Intelligent Computing Lab.

One of her recent personal projects is called “Following the Footnote,” a database created with the Python language that interconnects 3,000 different books and determines the most influential authors in a sample.

At Yale, she is one of the first female Co-Chairs of the Yale Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Y-IEEE), an engineering club that works on high-toned projects such as sending radio messages to the International Space Station or lighting up campus towers. Since electrical engineering is a traditionally male-dominated field, Tamar feels empowered to serve as a leader of this branch and as a member of the larger national organization.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher placed me in the advanced math group. I should have been honored and excited. Instead, I dreaded it.

The group consisted of me and five other boys at a time when cooties were the top concern. The math sessions were long and lonely — I didn’t feel comfortable asking my peers to clarify questions or show me their methods for solving problems. It quickly became clear to me that success in challenging STEM fields requires more than just academic accomplishment. It is built upon friendship, support, and collaboration.

At Yale, I have been so fortunate to develop strong friendships within the STEM community which have paved the way for academic growth. Whether it is a challenging problem set, a complicated research project, or an amusing (yet nerdy) joke, I have friends and peers to turn to. They give me the confidence to take on harder classes, and ambitious STEM projects that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. Our shared passion for technology and problem solving creates bonds that go beyond just problem sets and labs. These bonds represent a common way of thinking and approach to everyday life.

To my fellow women in STEM: take advantage of those bonds. Build your community early on and know that it is a give and take. Ask for help — you don’t have to do everything on your own.

STEM is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Building a successful prototype or completing work in a lab requires collaboration from those with diverse perspectives. Friendship and support not only makes that collaboration possible, but also sometimes fun.

Taylor Chapman is a junior at Yale majoring in Electrical Engineering and Environmental Studies. Before coming to Yale, Taylor received an Associate’s Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology at Horry-Georgetown Technical College while simultaneously finishing high school.

At Yale, she continues to gain experience in energy-related fields, such as alternative energy technologies, power distribution networks, and energy efficiency techniques. After studying a type of laser at Yale’s Optoelectronics Materials and Devices Lab through the Science, Technology, and Research Scholars program during her first summer, Taylor sought to learn more about power systems and renewable energy technologies last spring while studying abroad in Ireland. At the same time, she also conducted research at UCD’s Energy Institute.

Taylor is one of the first two female Co-Chairs of the Yale Student Branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (Y-IEEE), which is currently spearheading many unique engineering projects. “I’m very excited for what we will all be able to accomplish. Because [recently] I feel like the doors [are] opening a lot more.” Taylor says.

As many of us would agree, STEM is extraordinary! It is a field that contains a whole world of curiosity and is constantly shaping our society with each new discovery. Combined with the community of passionate people it houses, STEM is delightful to be a part of!

Yet, while STEM is all those wonderful things, it can simultaneously present itself as daunting and restrictive. With our meticulously laid out curriculums and stringent benchmarks and GPA requirements for post-graduate opportunities, it often seems like there is a very defined path to follow. When you are the only person in the room from an underrepresented background, it can also feel like there is a strict mold in which you have to fit to meet the idea of what it means to be a scientist, an engineer, or even a student in STEM. 

However, in the time since I started my own journey in engineering, I have found that STEM’s restrictiveness is an illusion. You could say there is an enormous “margin of error” in which you can take risks, do unconventional things, and be yourself while still being the engineer (or other type of scientist) that you dreamed of being. By wandering off the path a bit, you might find yourself traveling and studying abroad (like me!), learning a new language (I know STEM students who have taken Acadian and Egyptian!), becoming a dancer or musician (I’m sure the Ballroom Dance Team and the marching band benefit immensely from their STEM students’ counting skills), and the list goes on. I have learned that being in STEM does not mean we can’t embrace our passions, be proud of our identities, or explore new curiosities outside of STEM. In fact, it only makes us stronger!