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CDC Women in STEM Careers

CDC Women Encourage Young Women and Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

several images of female students performing duties at the CDC Disease Detective Camp

Students participate in the CDC Disease Detective Camp. The camp is open to upcoming high school juniors and seniors and is held at CDC's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Women at CDC share their personal journey into public health careers, provide basic tips, and encourage girls and young women who are interested in STEM and public health careers.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers offer women the opportunity to engage in some of the most exciting realms of discovery and technological innovation. Increasing opportunities for women in these fields are an important step towards realizing greater career fulfillment, economic success, and equality for women across the board. Women from across CDC discuss their path to public health STEM careers, and encourage girls and women to pursue professions in these traditionally male dominated fields.

Many women at CDC have combined STEM occupations with public health and love what they do! They are passionate about helping keep the world healthy and safe. Their stories illustrate how their work makes a difference in people’s lives! You too, can work to protect the health of people in small communities to around the world, from rural areas to big cities, and from schools to workplaces.

The women at CDC all emphasize the same basics for building a great STEM career:

  • Never give up. Believe you can do it.
  • Reach beyond the historical limitations often placed on women. Dream big.
  • Find good mentors in your life. Learn from their experience and wisdom.
  • Study. Be prepared.

Kristy BeardenKristy Bearden, BS
Formerly a Chemist in the National Center for Environmental Health, CDC
Now attending Medical School


When Kristy Bearden was 5, she used to lie on the couch and pretend she was reading her mom’s medical textbooks from nursing school. Who knew that would lead to a chemistry career with CDC - and pair that with a career as a cheerleader with the Atlanta Falcons? Continue reading...

Martha BoisseauMartha Boisseau, MPH
Health Educator
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC


Martha Boisseau had the courage to change direction in her career. “Always be alert for opportunity. Don’t be afraid to try something outside of your comfort zone,” she says. Continue reading...

Laura BrownLaura Brown, PhD
Behavioral Scientist
National Center for Environmental Health, CDC


Laura Brown was scared by math and science because they didn’t come naturally to her. She had always avoided them—until they were needed because of the career she chose. Continue reading...

Sue CasteelSue Casteel, MS
Environmental Health Scientist
Division of Community Health Investigations, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC


Sue Casteel, who as a child picked cotton during harvest season, grew up to be an environmental health scientist who does things like collect water samples from a creek to test them for bacteria. This helps protect public health by ensuring healthy drinking and recreational water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene. Continue reading...

Gayle DeBordGayle DeBord, PhD
Toxicologist
Captain, US Public Health Service
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC


During her summer vacations from school, Gayle DeBord used to read five books a week, especially science fiction. They showed her worlds she never knew existed, and she wanted to explore them. That’s how she began her journey to a career as a pharmacist and then on to occupational safety and health research. Continue reading...

Tambra DunamsTambra Dunams, PhD
Chemist
National Center for Environmental Health, CDC


Growing up in New Orleans, Tambra Dunams treasured the offbeat Christmas gifts her parents gave her. One all-time favorite was a chemistry set that she and her older brother played with in the backyard. The educational set exploded into a career path for Tambra, who became an expert in chemical weapons disposal. Continue reading...

Denise KooDenise Koo, MD, MPH
Director
Captain, U.S. Public Health Service
Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, Office of Public Health Scientific Services, CDC


When Denise Koo took a class in epidemiology (the study of the cause of disease in a group of people) in medical school, she realized she had found her niche. “I loved solving the mysteries of disease epidemics. I loved public health science because it’s fascinating and makes a difference.” Continue reading...

Barbara MahonBarbara Mahon, MD
Physician
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC


A high school athlete who played basketball and softball, Barbara Mahon was a soccer goalie in college and even went to the nationals. When she earned a college fellowship and went to Africa, she decided to make sports the topic of her research, but instead found her true passion as a disease detective. Continue reading...

Marilyn RadkeMarilyn Radke, MD, MA, MPH
Physician
National Center for Environmental Health, CDC


As a child, Marilyn Radke let her imagination roam beyond her tiny hometown in West Virginia. This coal miner’s daughter ended up as a doctor working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect public health by preventing exposure to chemical weapons. Continue reading...

Rosally RiveraRosally Rivera, BS
Mechanical Engineer
Quality and Sustainability Office, Office of Safety, Security and Asset Management, CDC


Rosally Rivera’s teenage dream was to be the first Hispanic woman on the moon. Her journey instead led her to marry two of her passions—physics and materials science—to design mechanical systems. Continue reading...

Jacquelyn Sampson, PhDJacquelyn Sampson, PhD
Formerly a Microbiologist in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC Now retired


When Jacquelyn Sampson was growing up, most children she knew contracted measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. There weren’t many vaccines to help them stay well. When her sister became ill with diphtheria, this opened the door to a new world that never lost its charm: microbiology. Continue reading...

Sandra SteinerSandra Steiner, PhD
Microbiologist and Scientific Clearance Officer
Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC


When she was growing up in Colombia, Sandra Steiner first wanted to be a mechanic. But she ended up studying microbiology because she had always excelled in science. It turned out to be the right choice. Continue reading...

Emine YaylaliEmine Yaylali, PhD
Industrial Engineer
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC


Growing up in Turkey, Emine Yaylali’s favorite French cartoon was about discoverers and explorers. The children’s show planted the seeds for her lifelong love affair with science and math and her career as an industrial engineer. Continue reading...

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