Maria Bayder of Young Women: “Ask questions”

Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions; no one will judge you, and people are generally happy to help someone. Asking questions at YWIB meetings helped me feel less confused and more confident about upcoming events. As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure […]

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Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions; no one will judge you, and people are generally happy to help someone. Asking questions at YWIB meetings helped me feel less confused and more confident about upcoming events.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Bayder.

Maria Bayder is a Grade 10 student at West Island College and is one of the current Young Woman in Bio (YWIB) Ambassadors. She is passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and strives to become a researcher in medical physics. She competes in various mathematics contests since 2017, tutors students in algebra and geometry on the platform UPchieve since spring 2021, and participates in several science fairs since 2020; she is an alumna of the 2021 Virtual International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Maria joined YWIB in summer 2021 to help more people, especially girls, learn more and become interested in STEM.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up with my parents in the city of Montreal, Quebec. I started loving STEM when I entered my first math competition in Grade 5; I enjoyed the experience of solving interesting problems, despite not passing to the next stage of the competition. I continued participating in those contests, started participating in science fairs in Grade 8, and began tutoring students in math in Grade 9. I developed my current passion for STEM thanks to those events and many interesting math and science classes led by inspirational teachers.

You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

The Young Women in Bio organization aims at preparing girls to become future STEM leaders. To achieve this goal, YWIB and we, Ambassadors, are working to provide exciting STEM experiences, create captivating educational content, and share our passions for sciences.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

About a year ago, I started realizing that many girls I know are hesitant about pursuing their passion in STEM. While some have not found their passions yet, others are shy to join STEM clubs dominated by boys or to participate in large competitive STEM events. During my participation at the 2021 Virtual ISEF, I got to talk to many passionate female students and hear from successful women in STEM. From there on, I understood that it is possible and needed to get more girls into STEM.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I came to love STEM through math contests, science fairs, and thought-provoking classes. However, I also came to realizing that other girls are uncertain about going into sciences. The final trigger to follow my dreams in STEM and help other girls pursue theirs was my participation at the 2021 ISEF. Since then, I understood that I love STEM as well as the fact that I need to help more girls be interested and follow their passions in STEM. Joining YWIB as an Ambassador became a great opportunity to both continue being passionate about STEM and start sharing my interests for science with other girls.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I started being interested in STEM after participating in various STEM events and having stimulating math and science classes. To start helping more girls feel as inspired by sciences, I found out about the Young Women in Bio organization which aimed to help girls become STEM leaders, so I did more research about it. Then, I gathered all of the necessary information and applied to become an YWIB Ambassador. Afterwards, I was invited to join YWIB, so I became one of the organization’s Ambassadors. Currently, we, Ambassadors, are creating STEM clubs for girls in each of our school communities as well as are working together to find new ways to help girls be inspired to pursue their passions in STEM.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

So far, the most interesting event that happened in YWIB was meeting the other Ambassadors. Despite being online and separated by hundreds of kilometers, it was fun to get to know like-minded students who are also passionate about STEM; we talked about which areas of sciences each of us is most interested in, described how we each found our love for STEM, and brainstormed ideas about how we can help more girls find passion in sciences this year.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made is being too formal and serious when sending emails. In messages, I began with “Good day” and a name title and ended with “Sincerely” and my signature. Even though there was some awkwardness at first, I find that my formalities are pretty funny and look a bit clumsy, since YWIB has a friendly and calm atmosphere. The lesson from this incident is to remember that we are all humans and that we don’t always need formal words to communicate with each other.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Firstly, my parents supported me through my whole journey in STEM, from my first math contest to my first science fair to my work as an YWIB Ambassador. Secondly, I would like to recognize my Grade 9 Science teacher Mr. Allan Tabatchnick who provided an amazing opportunity to participate in the Montreal Regional Science and Technology Fair (MRSTF) and introduced me to the Young Women in Bio organization. Thirdly, my Grade 6 Advanced Math teacher Mr. Rick Carter made a positive impact by making me feel inspired to work and learn more about STEM. Finally, my high school friends influenced me by encouraging me to do my best in what I love to do. I would like to thank all of these amazing people for their extraordinary support!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I joined YWIB quite recently, so I don’t know any specific stories. Hopefully, we, YWIB Ambassadors, will be able to make a positive impact and hear back from particular people who were inspired to follow their dreams in STEM.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. The local and school communities can provide more opportunities, such as workshops and forums, to learn more about different fields of sciences and participate in STEM events, especially for girls.
  2. The society should encourage girls and women to pursue careers in STEM; it should refrain from making any overgeneralized comments about females and making biased judgements about a specific person’s ability to love and work in sciences.
  3. People can also support women in STEM by recognizing and praising their work in the community. This acknowledgement can help present and future female scientists and engineers feel more empowered and inspired.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Once you find your passion, continue to be curious and work well in that area: If you are passionate about a subject, then pursue your dreams in that field of interest, even if you don’t find success right away. My first years in math contests and science fairs never worked out well; nonetheless, I gained more knowledge and experience and put in more work each year, so I was able to make progress and succeed at passing to the next stages of math contests and science fair.
  2. Give a try to other areas of interest: Even if you think you found your passions, try out other subjects and fields of interest, because there is a good chance you will discover a new passion. I thought that I would always be interested in mathematics, but a new experience with science fairs helped me find new passions in physics and biology.
  3. Develop you connections: Get to know as many people as you can. You never know when a person can help you out, answer questions, or give useful tips! My Grade 9 Science teacher Mr. Tabatchnick provided an incredible opportunity to participate in a regional science fair as well as introduced me to the YWIB organization.
  4. Have broad knowledge about everything: Have a bit of knowledge in every subject to be able to see one idea from multiple perspectives and provide insights from different points of view. Knowing History helps me know more about notable women in STEM as well as understand women’s historical situation and fight for equality.
  5. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions; no one will judge you, and people are generally happy to help someone. Asking questions at YWIB meetings helped me feel less confused and more confident about upcoming events.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

One thing that I think would convince other young people to impact the society is to think about current technology. In the twenty first century, most of us take technology for granted. However, it is important to remember about all of the people in STEM who developed and are developing these technologies. Young people should start impacting the society by learning more about sciences and supporting their peers, especially females, who are passionate about STEM, in order to maintain current technologies and make future discoveries to solve global problems.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to talk to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, since I think they are two of the most inspirational women in STEM today! I would like to know more about their revolutionary discovery about genome editing as well as about how they started to love STEM and pursued a career in sciences.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can discover about upcoming events and follow YWIB Ambassadors on Instagram @ywibambassadors. So keep your heads up for inspiring STEM events, and remember to stay curious!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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