As a woman of color in STEM, Najwa Anasse ’18 represents a minority in a field known for its lack of gender and racial diversity. Recognizing that the low interest among women and youth of color is largely the result of barriers to access, an increasing number of organizations and programs have been created to direct underrepresented youth towards science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Anasse, who is double majoring in Neuroscience & Behavior and Biology, credits one such program, the University of California San Francisco’s Science Camp, for sparking her interest in STEM and inspiring her continued commitment to the sciences. Jay A. Levy ’60, UCSF Professor of Medicine, has been serving as the camp’s faculty advisor since its inception in 2007, when a pharmacy student in his lab founded the program.
This one-week free summer day camp for rising fifth- and sixth-grade students, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, annually provides about 60 students in the Bay Area with the chance to experience hands-on, inquiry-based science, in the hopes that it will motivate them to pursue the natural and health sciences as fields of study and careers. Anasse was part of the summer camp’s inaugural class.
“The UCSF science camp was the reason I became interested in science,” she says. “It was there that I held a real human brain in my hand, an experience that led to my fascination with neuroscience. In my junior year I joined the Grabel lab (Laura Grabel, professor of biology), which does neuroscience and stem cell research, focusing on stem cell therapy as a possible treatment for epilepsy. This summer, I worked in a lab at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, where I conducted research on neurodegenerative diseases. I hope to go to medical school and become a neurologist.”
Levy says he has been delighted to see participants like Anasse commit to the sciences for the long-term (and end up at his alma mater):
“It was a complete surprise when I learned that a senior now at Wesleyan, Najwa Anasse, had been in the first year of the UCSF Science Camp in 2007. It was gratifying to know that some of the alumni from that program are now following studies in education or in science in schools, particularly in the Bay Area. Najwa was a wonderful example, especially being on the East Coast and at Wesleyan, where she is in the neuroscience program. When interviewed by the young students at the event this year, Najwa was a great representative of what we have hoped the science camp could achieve—bringing the importance and excitement of science to a group of students who might not have had the experience.”
To learn more about UCSF’s Summer Science Camp, click here.