Know your worth and what you bring to the table and don’t compromise on that.”
Who is Aisha?
Aisha Martin a nurturer by nature is a cultured, creative, powerhouse with a youthful spirit and personable demeanor. Raised and educated primarily in Europe she has combined her artistic gifts, global travel, and experiences as a seasoned biologist with her heart for inspiring girls to be authentic, confident STEM leaders. Aisha’s STEM journey spans almost a decade and began at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA as a Molecular Biologist. She has held positions at Emory University Medical School, the Georgia Public Health Lab, and Baylor-Miraca Genetics Lab. As a certified Girls Empowerment Coach and STEMinist, her vision is to close the “gender gap to innovation,” by engaging girls from underserved and historically underrepresented communities through early exposure to STEM education and specialized mentoring.
Aisha’s mantra is “girls can’t be what they don’t see!” Her experiences as a female scientist in a male-dominated industry, coupled with her frustration at the lack of female STEM role models and mentors were the inspiration behind Fems4STEM™ which she founded in 2015. Aisha saw the need for early exposure to STEM through hands-on activities and resources to ensure that girls are successful and competitive in STEM. More importantly, a void needed to be filled in terms of female mentorship to combat the lack of gender diversity in STEM professions. She found that if more girls were exposed to STEM with the support of a female mentor on a consistent basis and with whom they could identify, they were more likely to pursue a STEM degree and career. Fems4STEM™ is on a mission to empower, inspire and equip a nation of girls with the knowledge; skills and confidence to be global STEM leaders.
I hold a BS in Biology & MS in Forensic Science. I have years of specialized lab experience in DNA & TNA extractions, PCR, Select Agent screening, Ebola testing, Gel Electrophoresis, Blood processing, ELISA Assay, Linear Array and Western Blotting to name a few.
How did you choose to pursue this field?
I’m an analytical problem solver and I love figuring things out. Performing experiments in the lab allow me to do this, especially the field of Forensic Science. I have always loved watching crime shows and playing games like Clue, so I decided to marry my love of science with my love for crime scene investigation by pursuing Forensic Biology.
Who was your inspiration or role model that guided you to this field?
Sadly I didn’t have a STEM mentor, role model or inspiration lead me to this field. When I was growing up there was no Doc McStuffins, Hidden Figures book/movie or STEM organization that I could join. No one really spoke about or introduced me to women of color in STEM when I was in school. Until I went to college, I never had a science teacher who was one of color. However, I did have supportive family members, some of whom were nurses and teachers who supported my dream of having a STEM career.
Did you always have the desire to work in this field? If not, what was your intended field? Why did you change careers?
Ever since I was 8 years old I always said that I wanted to be a Pediatrician and an actress. I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish both, but I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I did major in Biology (pre-med) but I chose to pursue a career as a Biologist instead, which then led to my desire to pursue BIology. I love working in the lab, performing experiments and seeing the end result. I have recently decided to take my knowledge and experience in the classroom and become a teacher. I have mentored for years, so teaching was a natural progression for me and just makes sense.
What do you love most about your job or career?
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job or career?
The most rewarding aspect has been meeting girls who have never seen or spoken with a woman in STEM who looks like them and who dresses fashionably. I am changing mindsets and breaking stereotypes by showing them that a Scientist can be a woman of color and that a woman in STEM doesn’t have to be socially awkward, pimple-faced, wear thick bifocals or dress oddly. We can be attractive, fashionable and wear lab coats and pumps! We don’t all look like Bill Nye. (Lol)
What things would you change about your job?
What are the most difficult things or disappointing aspect of your job?
As I mentioned before, female representation is lacking especially women of color. We are often mistaken for the janitor or the secretary. It’s still very disappointing when I am the only woman and definitely the only woman of color in the lab or room. Decisions are made that affect women in STEM, however, there is often no woman present to speak on our behalf or invoke change.
How have you combated the stigma of being a “woman of color” in STEM?
On more than one occasion I have had to dispel the myth that women of color are loud, angry, insubordinate, lazy or less educated. I don’t apologize for being smart or articulate. I don’t let anyone insult my intelligence or talk over me in meetings as if I have nothing of value to add to the conversation. I am not afraid to admit that I don’t know something, so I will ask questions. I make it known that I want to learn and do my job at the highest level and that I am far from being lazy. I work hard and don’t expect handouts nor will I settle for less than what I deserve.
What advice would you give your younger self about your career journey as a “woman of color” working in a predominantly white, male-dominated field?
I would tell my younger self to seek out a woman of color working in STEM and ask for mentorship. Start identifying and pursuing internship opportunities early and developing relationships with other women of color in science. Don’t limit yourself to doing just one thing. There are many opportunities in STEM and YOU are the woman to dominate them because you are a woman of many talents. Don’t dim your light or shrink to make someone else feel comfortable. You are enough so don’t worry about getting a seat at the table, build your own! You are a STEM girl and STEM GIRLS RUN THE WORLD!!
Can you provide some words of wisdom to young ladies thinking about entering a STEM field as a career choice?
(1.) Know your worth and what you bring to the table and don’t compromise on that.
(2.) Connect with a mentor/expert in your chosen career field. They’ve been where you are & where you’re trying to go.
(3.) Education is never-ending, so don’t ever stop your quest for knowledge.
(4.) There’s no need to compete with other women in STEM. There aren’t that many of us in STEM, so we need to support each other. There’s room for everyone to win! You are only in competition with yourself.
What is your favorite quote?
Never acquire a lifestyle you’re willing to sell your soul to keep.”
This quote spoke to me because I pride myself on being personable and relatable. Most importantly I try to be transparent, humble, reliable and honest while authentically living my best life. I say what I mean and mean what I say. I’m not a chameleon and don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I don’t have time to hide behind different masks. I don’t try to fit in, because I was born to stand out!
How has your family been a great influence or support system?
My mom always told me that I was above average, I could achieve anything and be anything I wanted to be if I applied myself and put my faith in God. My family are my #1 fans and they support all of my endeavors.
How do you juggle motherhood and your career?
What are your future goals related to your career?
My plan is to obtain a PsyD in Forensic Psychology and continue to educate and mentor the next generation of STEM girls through my organization Fems4STEM and my future projects (books, businesses, events etc.)
What are some interesting facts about yourself that you would like to share?
Facebook: Mrs.AishaNicole and Fems4STEM
Instagram: @mrs.aishanicole and @fems4stem
Contact Aisha for any further questions:
Phone: (754) 26-STEM