This week’s Scientist Spotlight features Cassandra Lee, a research associate in Hong Kong, China. Our Scientist Spotlight series features STEM professionals who volunteer in our pen pal program, Letters to a Pre-Scientist.
Cassandra is a Research Assistant at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shatin, Hong Kong, China. In her work, Cassandra uses robots to teach kids who have trouble speaking, various social skills. In addition, she also uses robots to more quickly understand information about these kids to share with scientists. We asked Cassandra to share with us why outreach in important and what she would share with a middle school student who may be hesitant about pursuing a career in STEM.
Why do you participate in LPS? Why is outreach important to you?
Many people in STEM have mentored me in one way or another, largely over the Internet. With the ever-increasing role that science plays in this world, it’s imperative that we pass on what we know and inspire future generations to discover what we don’t.
What did you think science was when you were in middle school? How has that changed overtime?
My middle school self perceived science as a rule book the universe followed. Now I see science as a treasure hunt or an investigation into a mystery: in my case it was a quest for the elusive Sphere, and yours may be different. If our life purposes were to find our Spheres, we would get different answers. Even though yours may be unknown at the moment, keep seeking and you will find it.
What advice would you give a middle schooler who is excited about STEM but doesn’t think they can attain a career in STEM?
Know your objective. Usually people would mention having a moral compass, a life lesson to learn quickly, or a higher purpose to aspire to, and I’m tempted to repeat that I aspired to inspire people to be great, but I won’t do that…
I grew up wanting to be a novelist so that I could enthral young readers with fascinating stories. As a 12-year-old (or younger), I fancied finding an object called the Sphere so that I could write a novel about it, and I read many books and drew many mind maps of spheres and spherical objects — despite not knowing what the Sphere I had in mind looked like.
In secondary school, I excelled in English and Mathematics, but my school’s arts stream didn’t offer literature, which frustrated an aspiring writer like me. Since the other choice was the science stream, I dug into maths and realised two things: firstly, that I can inspire more people, especially girls, if I chose science; secondly, since spheres are mathematical objects, by learning about science, I could find the Sphere.
After I’d entered the science stream and despite above-average academic performance, I wasn’t confident in my STEM abilities, and yet it was professional science communicators who kept me going — not just science and technology journalists, but also scientists who wrote amazing books and articles that emboldened me to persevere. Hence, my role here at “Letters to a Pre-Scientist” is like these lovely people who showed me on air, in print and over the Internet the wonders and importance of STEM in our world.