We had the good fortune of connecting with Aisha Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aisha, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
The idea for Fems4STEM™ was birthed in 2015, as a result of my experiences being a female scientist in a male-dominated industry, coupled with my frustration at the lack of female role models and mentors in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). As early as 8 years old, I wanted to pursue a STEM career. If you would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always a pediatrician and an actress. I did not know how I was going to do both, but I knew that was what I wanted to do, and no one could tell me otherwise. I have always been an analytical creative who loved science. While I did not make it to Hollywood, I did earn a bachelor’s degree in biology. My STEM journey then took me down a different path and I decided to attend grad school instead of medical school, where I earned a master’s degree in forensic science. My mantra is “girls can’t be what they don’t see!” Growing up, I did not see many women in STEM, especially women who looked like me. Those who were in the field were not mentoring girls like me with an affinity for science or showing us the endless possibilities in STEM. I had no idea that there were so many options. I thought if you loved science like I did, your options were majoring in biology or chemistry and then you either became a science teacher or a doctor. Unlike this generation, there was no Doc McStuffins in the cartoon lineup or Project Mc², Barbies with various STEM careers or even a Bill Nye. I was not exposed to a real lab experiment until high school. Early exposure to STEM is the key to ensuring that girls not only continue to be interested in pursuing STEM degrees and careers, but that they are successful and competitive in the field as well. More importantly, there is a void that needs to be filled in terms of female mentorship to combat the lack of gender diversity in STEM professions. It has been proven that if girls are exposed to STEM with the support of a female mentor on a consistent basis and with whom they can identify, they are more likely to pursue a STEM degree and career. First Lady Michelle Obama said it best, “… if we’re going to out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world, then we have to open doors to everyone. We can’t afford to leave anyone out. We need all hands on deck. And that means clearing hurdles for women and girls as they navigate careers in science, technology, engineering and math. And it starts with lighting the spark for science and math in elementary school and grade school.” I created Fems4STEM™ to do just that!
What should our readers know about your business?
I was blessed to start my STEM career right after college when I landed a job at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I have also held positions at Emory University Medical School, Baylor Genetics Lab and the Georgia Public Health Lab. One of the challenges that I had to overcome was not having early exposure to techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and western blotting prior to starting my career. I had to learn these techniques and more on the job. In 2016, I decided to become a science teacher. Unlike many science educators, I have experience working in the field which enables me to bring these unique skills and non-traditional teaching methods into the classroom. I combine my experience with education and real-world applications such as realistic autopsies and crime scenes to my forensic science students and I take their education to the next level. My students and Fems4STEM™ mentees get the opportunity to navigate real-world scenarios in fun and innovative ways. I did not get this type of exposure at their age, but I make sure that every student that I encounter does. This sets me apart from others and I am proud of that.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I was raised internationally, so I would take their taste buds on a culinary excursion around the city stopping at places like Pho Nam at Krog Street Market for a bowl of their delicious Pho. The Atlanta Beltline, Stone Mountain, Piedmont Park and Atlantic Station would be a part of the itinerary. The visit would not be complete without drinks at the Sundial and its breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of the city. Watching the sun set from 723 ft. in the air is amazing!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I must shout out my #1 cheerleader, my mom. Growing up she told me that I was above average and that I could achieve anything I set my mind to with prayer, faith, hard work and dedication. She instilled a level of confidence, perseverance and ambition in me that cannot be suppressed. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing that I cannot accomplish! My mom is the consummate professional who exudes creativity, style and grace. She is a visionary who demands attention in every room she enters without even trying. It is always an honor when someone says that I am just like her. She has attended every recital, play, spelling bee, awards ceremony, game and graduation I have ever had. When I looked out into the audience or crowd, I knew that she would be there. I could always count on her support and that has not changed even though I am an adult. If she cannot be there, her presence is known and felt by either sending a representative on her behalf or a token of love.