Olivia Prezzano is a high school student who has a passion for math and science, and is on the W.IN Youth Advisory Board.

What was it that got you interested in STEM?

It started with math.  When I was little, I was always into numbers and enjoyed it.  What got me into engineering and bio-engineering was an AP Biology class that I took.  I was introduced to some of the engineering aspects of the biology world. I saw the connection with biology and math and now I’m interested in getting into research so I can help people by curing diseases.

There is a study done by George Dimopulos that shows we’re on the verge of curing malaria by using genetic engineering on mosquitoes.  I find that really interesting.

Are there other girls in your classes?

I’m in an engineering class right now with about twenty boys and four other girls.  

How did it make you feel to be one of only a few girls?

It was intimidating when I walked in on the first day.  Our teacher is a man too. I remember feeling like they might be good at this and know what they’re doing and that I wouldn’t.  

We started talking about mechanical engineering and how cars worked.  It’s a stereotype but a lot of the boys knew something about that right off and so it made me nervous to speak up because I didn’t know anything about mechanics.

What made you stick with it?

I just realized there is no harm in putting something out there.  At first, I was worried they would judge me. If I said something that wasn’t right then they might conclude that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I came to realize there is no such thing as a bad idea and by sharing, it helps everyone to collaborate.

What made you consider being on the W.IN Advisory Board?

I accepted the invitation because I’ve grown such a passion for both STEM and women’s involvement in fields typically dominated by men. At my school, we don’t have any real opportunities for passionate, focused girls to get together, and it’s something I’ve definitely been looking for. Hearing about the opportunity to not only be a part of an inspiring group of girls, but to bring other girls into it too, was something I was really excited about.

What is one thing you’ve learned since you started?

I’ve really learned how productive a group can be through team brainstorming and an open creative process.

What are things you think individuals your age can do to advance girls going into STEM?

I think the main thing girls can do to help the women’s STEM movement is to speak up. I definitely know girls my age who are embarrassed to talk about their passion because they  feel like they’re not educated enough to speak about it, or think no one else can relate. The more we get each other involved and elevate each other through supportive discussion, we can erase social stigmas and make girls more confident to be openly involved and applied in STEM.