88 episodes

I’m an electrical engineer who enjoys listening to and sharing stories of ordinarily extraordinary women that work in STEM fields. The women featured on these episodes work in different STEM fields, are at different phases in their careers, and bring their unique perspectives and stories. I am endlessly fascinated by what these women do, how they have navigated their careers, balanced families, and why they made the career choices they did. Most STEM fields are dominated by men which makes for unique circumstances for women to navigate. It’s a privilege to be able to share their stories through this podcast.

Ordinarily Extraordinary - Conversations with women in STEM Kathy Nelson

    • Science
    • 4.9 • 14 Ratings

I’m an electrical engineer who enjoys listening to and sharing stories of ordinarily extraordinary women that work in STEM fields. The women featured on these episodes work in different STEM fields, are at different phases in their careers, and bring their unique perspectives and stories. I am endlessly fascinated by what these women do, how they have navigated their careers, balanced families, and why they made the career choices they did. Most STEM fields are dominated by men which makes for unique circumstances for women to navigate. It’s a privilege to be able to share their stories through this podcast.

    Dr. Monique Chism - Undersecretary of Education at Smithsonian Institute

    Dr. Monique Chism - Undersecretary of Education at Smithsonian Institute

    Dr. Monique Chism is the Undersecretary for Education at the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Chism is repsonsible for coordinating educational programming throughout all of the Smithsonian facilities. She has spent her life working in education including the Department of Education. She is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all facets of work and life. Dr. Chism has a PhD in American Studies.

    Episode Notes
    Dr. Monique Chism shares the fascinating history of the Smithsonian Institute and why she considers it to be one of the most accessible and relevant museums in the country. She talks about her role as the Undersecretary of Education at the Museum - what she does, the programming she is involved in, some of the fascinating people she gets to meet (she had just Mae Jemison the night before our interview). We talk about the intersection of art an science (which is at the core of the Smithsonian's history) and the importance of both.
    The Smithsonian Institution is made up of 60 museums - not all of them are located in the Washington DC area. It is the largest museum complex in the world. Dr. Chism explains about the educational programming the Smithsonian has (and there is a lot - almost all free!!) and their goal of bringing the Smithsonian to every American. There's so much great work and programming going on at the Smithsonian, both on site and virtually! 
    (So, here's a side note...I love the Smithsonian - I try to visit at least one museum everytime I'm in DC. I thought I knew a lot about it, but I have apparently just scratched the surface. I learned so much about the museum and the institute both by meeting Dr. Chism in person at the Smithsonian Castle where she works - I rarely have gotten to meet my guests in person and through our conversation)
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio
    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check
    Smithsonian Museums, Galleries, and Zoo
    Smithsonian Institution Research Centers
    IF/Then Collection
    Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. (Wikipedia)
    The space shuttle Discovery is the centerpiece of the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.
    “The Smithsonian Institution”―When most people hear the name, museums, scientific research, even Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the Wright brothers’ plane come to mind. But many don’t know how, or for that matter, who created the Smithsonian. The Institution is now 169 years old, but its true beginning happened 250 years ago with the birth of a seemingly ill-fated boy named James Smithson. Smithson (c. 1765–1829), the founding donor of the Smithsonian, was an English chemist and mineralogist. He was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson, the first Duke of Northumberland, and the wealthy widow Elizabeth Hungerford Keate Macie. His exact birthday remains a mystery because he was born secretly in Paris, where his mother had gone to hide her pregnancy. He was born James Lewis Macie, but in 1801, after his parents died, he took his father’s last name of Smithson. Toward the end of his life, under a clause in his will, he left his fortune to the United States. It was to be used to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge…” in Washington, D.C. and it was to be named the Smithsonian Institution. 

    • 1 hr
    STEMSkills - Mentoring & Networking; Erin Chapple & Jodi Boone

    STEMSkills - Mentoring & Networking; Erin Chapple & Jodi Boone

    Jodi Boone is a Product Manager 2 for Microsoft's Azure platform, a cloud computing platform for application management via Microsoft-managed data centers. Jodi graduated graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science in 2020. 
    Erin Chapple is a product and technology executive who delivers multibillion-dollar revenues through innovation, product leadership and technology acumen. She leads Microsoft Azure Core product and design. Erin has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering and a Master's Degree in Applied Behavioral Science - Coaching and Consulting in Organizations.

    Episode Notes
    Jodi and Erin share their experience as a mentor and mentee. They talk about their experience from their different perspectives. Erin as an experienced executive who has been in the industry for many years and Jodi as an entry level computer science graduate. Jodi and Erin connected at a SheHacks hackathon which was the beginning of a series of conversations and eventually developed into a mentoring relationships.
    We talk about the benefits of mentoring, not just for the mentee but also for the mentor and how a mentorship resembles dating...a thread that weaves itself throughout our conversation. Erin and Jodi's mentoring relationship was built over time and has been instrumental in guiding Jodi as she started her career and pivoted to a new focus shortly after entering the job market.
    We also talk about the importance of networking and the difference between sponsorships and mentorships.
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio
    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check
    SheHacks+ is Canada’s biggest all-female and non-binary 36 hour hackathon, which aims to help individuals who are subject to gender discrimination realize they belong in tech. (https://shehacks.ca)
    SCRUM - a framework for project management, with an initial emphasis on software development, although it has been used in other fields including research, sales, marketing and advanced technologies. It is designed for teams of ten or fewer members, who break their work into goals that can be completed within time-boxed iterations, called sprints, no longer than one month and most commonly two weeks. (wikipedia)
    Microsoft Azure - The Azure cloud platform is more than 200 products and cloud services designed to help you bring new solutions to life—to solve today’s challenges and create the future. Build, run, and manage applications across multiple clouds, on-premises, and at the edge, with the tools and frameworks of your choice. (https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/resources/cloud-computing-dictionary/what-is-azure/)

    • 1 hr 15 min
    Museum of Mathematics & Cindy Lawrence, Executive Director of MoMath

    Museum of Mathematics & Cindy Lawrence, Executive Director of MoMath

    Cindy Lawrence is the Executive Director and CEO of the Museum of Mathematics. The Museum of Mathematics began in 2008 with the mission of enhancing public understanding and perception of mathematics. Its dynamic exhibits and programs stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics.

    Episode Notes
    Cindy shares her joy of mathematics and the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) and the importance of making mathematics accessible, joyful, and beautiful for all that visit MoMath. She shares how her perspective as a non-mathematician was very important during the museum's creation as exhibits were being developed to ensure the museum was a place where all people would feel welcomed and that all people could understand the exhibits. 
    She shares how the museum came together (initially it was a traveling exhibit), how she got involved, and the process of fundraising to bring the museum to fruition.
    MoMath is an amazing place that is immersive, interactive, and beautiful. It is well worth the visit when you're in NYC!
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio
    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check
    MoMath is located at 11 East 26th Street in Manhattan and is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week, 364 days a year (MoMath is closed on Thanksgiving Day and after 2:30 pm on one Wednesday every month for Math Encounters*). Information can be found at https://momath.org.
    Stan Wagon invented the square wheel tricycle and is from Minnesota. He is a Canadian-American mathematician, a professor of mathematics at Macalester College in Minnesota. He is the author of multiple books on number theory, geometry, and computational mathematics, and is also known for his snow sculpture. (wikipedia)
    Erik D. Demaine (born 28 February 1981) is a professor of Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former child prodigy. (wikipedia)
    Jennifer Chase (data scientist) - https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennchase/
    A study of 104 children from ages 3 to 10 found similar patterns of brain activity in boys and girls as they engaged in basic math tasks, researchers reported Friday in the journal Science of Learning."They are indistinguishable," says Jessica Cantlon, an author of the study and professor of developmental neuroscience at Carnegie Mellon University. (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/11/08/777187543/math-looks-the-same-in-the-brains-of-boys-and-girls-study-finds)
    Eileen Marie Collins (born November 19, 1956) is a retired NASA astronaut and United States Air Force (USAF) colonel. A former flight instructor and test pilot, Collins was the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle and the first to command a Space Shuttle mission. (wikipedia)

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Lisa Bowers - Master of Health Services Administration; CCO biotech, & reproductive health specialist

    Lisa Bowers - Master of Health Services Administration; CCO biotech, & reproductive health specialist

    Lisa Bowers is a mission-driven, visionary, senior executive in the biopharmaceutical industry. She has extensive experience leading strategic, operational, field, program and product initiatives in healthcare. She is passionate about improving access to healthcare and healthcare products for underserved populations in businesses and nonprofits. Lisa has an Master of Health Services Administration and a bachelor's degree in English.

    Episode Notes
    With the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022 women's rights were grievously attacked. Lisa brings a long history of working in biotech and reproductive health. Lisa shares her perspectives on what the overturning of Roe means to women and their reproductive health. She brings an optimistic viewpoint to the discussion and shares how this may be a catalyst for much needed change to contraception and women's health care.
    While a lot of the discussion focuses on reproductive health, we also talk about the work she currently does at Day One Biopharmaceuticals where she focuses on bringing cancer treatments to children with brain cancer. Typically, most biotech companies study their medicines in adults first and then move to children later, but Day One begins their drug development programs in children first. 
    We also talk about the important role of humanities and communications in STEM. 
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio
    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check
    Day One BioPharmaceuticals - https://www.dayonebio.com
    Pediatric low-grade gliomas are a heterogeneous set of tumors. They encompass tumors of astrocytic, oligodendroglial, and mixed glial-neuronal histology. Although their clinical behavior can vary, the majority of low-grade gliomas are indolent and do not undergo malignant transformation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917804/)
    Shelley Alpern, Director of Corporate Engagement at Rhia Ventures
    1 in 8 pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion.
    "Reproductive Justice" by Loretta Ross - https://www.amazon.com/Reproductive-Justice-Introduction-Vision-Century/dp/0520288203
    Rhia Ventures - https://rhiaventures.org

    SisterSong - SisterSong is a Southern based, national membership organization; our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities. (https://www.sistersong.net)
    Planned Parenthood Mar Monte - Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM) is the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the U.S., providing medical and education services to more than 220,000 people annually at over 30 health center locations in mid-California and northern Nevada. (https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-mar-monte)
    National Network of Abortion Funds - The National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice. (https://abortionfunds.org)

    Additional podcast notes can be found at https://ordinarily-extraordinary.com/episode-86-lisa-bowers/

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Cynthia Changyit Levin - Mechanical Engineer turned global health advocate

    Cynthia Changyit Levin - Mechanical Engineer turned global health advocate

    Cynthia Changyit Levin is the author of the newly released book "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Mom's Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started". Cynthia has been active in the advocacy world since her children were very small. She advocates on a number of bi-partisan issues, but her main focus is global health. Cynthia has bachelor's and master's degrees in Mechanical Engineering and shares how her STEM background helped her as she moved into her advocacy career.

    Episode Notes
    Cynthia shares her journey into mechanical engineering and how she went from mechanical engineering into advocacy. She shares how when her children were born, she made the decision to leave the engineering world to care for them, intending to go back. However, as we all know, life sometimes sends us on a different path - Cynthia's path was into global health advocacy - sometimes with her young children in tow. Cynthia's recently published book shares some of the stories of meeting with legislators with her children and some of the hilarity and humanity that ensued and provided for some great connections.
    Cynthia and I went to school together, from grammar school to high school. We share many of the same math teacher influences that helped get us into engineering. We talk about a lot on this podcast...global health, politics, the importance of using our voices, electricity, and so much more - not to mention her book - from what's in it to different ways books can get published.
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio
    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check
    Cynthia's website: https://www.changyit.com
    Cynthia's book "From Changing Diapers to Changing the World": https://www.changyit.com/books
    Spectrum (Radio Frequency (RF Spectrum)) - Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are widely used in modern technology, particularly in telecommunication. (wikipedia)
    Turberculosis - an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. Around 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kill about half of those affected. Typical symptoms of active TB are chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically referred to as consumption due to the weight loss associated with the disease. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms. (Wikipedia)

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Danica Bunnett - BS Product Design (Mechanical Engineering)

    Danica Bunnett - BS Product Design (Mechanical Engineering)

    Danica Bunnett is the Chief Operating Officer of Bluon, a mobile app and technology platform that supports the HVAC technician community. Danica shares her passion for supporting a community that hasn’t traditionally received a lot of support and for making their lives easier and better. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Product Design (Mechanical Engineering) from Stanford University where she was the president of Stanford Women in Design. She is an outdoor enthusiast and gets her energy from the outdoors and the sun (she says she’s “solar powered”!)

    Episode Notes
    Danica’s love for taking things apart, understanding how they work and spending time learning about the world through opportunities provided by her parents when she was growing up formed her love for design and engineering. She shares about the fun opportunities she had in her family as a child (she may not have necessarily thought of them as fun at the time), what got her interested in Product Design in Mechanical Engineering and how that differs from “strict” Mechanical Engineering and how she came to Bluon and then into leadership within Bluon. She talks about the importance of being able to have honest, authentic communications with the CEO she works with and how that sets the stage for them to have true trust within the organization.
    Music used in the podcast: Higher Up, Silverman Sound Studio

    Acronyms, Definitions, and Fact Check


    HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is the use of various technologies to control the temperature, humidity, and purity of the air in an enclosed space. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality. (Wikipedia)
    Bluon is a mobile app and support platform utilized by 100k HVAC-R technicians or one third of the U.S. market.Bluon is set to revolutionize the way in which technicians connect to their local distributors, resulting inempowered technicians, informed distributors and a more productive HVAC industry. (LinkedIn)
    Stanford Women in Design (SWID) was formed due to a gap in current mentorship opportunities at Stanford, and to address the challenges facing womxn in design. We aim to empower womxn through inspiring and catalyzing skill-development, career-mapping, and learning through the self-pursuit of innovative new projects, beyond the classroom experience. (https://stanfordwomenindesign.com)

    • 1 hr 11 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

dannyHVAC ,

Kathy the host is awesome

Thanks Kathy for putting so much care into your interviews! Great podcast

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