San Diego State University:
By: Ixchel Urbano, SDSU Chapter Member
Meet Natalie Benson, the current Vice President of the San Diego State University Chapter of WSS. Natalie is a fourth year majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Biology. Natalie has been a long time member of WSS and has been able to move up in her leadership roles through her journey. She is an aspiring pediatric/ prenatal genetic counselor, in hopes of applying her love of genetics within the medical field! She is also very heavily involved in research, and is one of the few students who have been able to be a part of on campus research. Natalie is very ambitious and her passion for the sciences has brought her much success throughout her undergraduate career.
Natalie joined WSS in the fall semester of her second year of college. She attended her first meeting with one of her roommates and remembered the instant excitement she felt when being emerged into an atmosphere of women supporting women. Natalie recalled that prior to joining WSS she often felt ashamed of her performance on some of her STEM exams. However, through WSS she realized that a failed test was not equivalent to a failed STEM career. Natalie realized that the occasional lower grade was a part of the learning process, and became more motivated once she understood that.
Natalie obtained her first research position by using the skills she had learned in WSS. These skills include knowing the importance of making connections, asking questions, and being confident. Natalie was offered her current research position by one of her organic chemistry TA’s who she made a connection with throughout the semester. By the end of the same semester, her TA asked her to come by his research lab to learn about their work and she was offered her position on the spot! She is now heavily involved in undergraduate research on campus in Dr. Bergdahl’s organic chemistry lab, where she works on the synthesis of an anti-cancer drug called Carmaphycin X.
Natalie has been working in the lab for nine months now; however, Covid-19 has caused her in-lab experience to be shortened to three months. In the six months out of lab, Natalie and her other undergraduate research peers remained involved in their projects by conducting literary research. Literary research to many is not as exciting as wet lab, but Natalie felt by conducting this crucial part of research she gained a new skill as a scientist! Natalie is one of the few students at San Diego State University who has been able to return to on campus research this fall. Since being back in the lab, Natalie has had to follow new precautionary rules and regulations which have caused some difficulties. However, her lab glasses fogging up from wearing a mask does not stop her from enjoying being back in the lab and doing what she loves- chemistry!
Natalie’s greatest piece of advice for those looking to get involved on campus is to be willing to learn and enthusiastic about the subject. She encourages all to keep in mind that knowledge and training will come with time. Natalie has certainly applied all the wisdom she has received through WSS to her own college journey and has had much success. Women in Science Society is always overwhelmed with a great sense of pride when we hear stories like Natalie’s and hope to continue inspiring college women throughout the nation!