Women of STEM

A profile series highlighting women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Carina Laroza, STEM Communicator at Scienkidfic Xplorers, based in the Philippines

Carina Laroza, STEM Communicator at Scienkidfic Xplorers, based in the Philippines

Carina Laroza, STEM Communicator at Scienkidfic Xplorers, based in the Philippines

Connect with Carina on the Scienkidfic Xplorers Facebook, Instagram, or website

What do you do?

Have you heard of e=mc2? How about projectile motion? Living or non-living things? How about the law of angular motion? You probably have, and that's great. But what relevance do they have? For most of us, to know a scientific concept is enough. What we actually tend to forget is its significance. That's where I, as a STEM communicator, come in. A STEM Communicator is like a teacher, but is more informal and unstructured when it comes to teaching a concept. I take science concepts, data, and research, and think about ways to disseminate this information to the public so that they can appreciate and understand its relevance to their lives.

What is the coolest part of your job?

The coolest part of my job is when we do our STEM education programs for kids. We're not just widening the horizons of these kids, it's also the public involvement that really makes me proud of what I do. If you really want people to appreciate science holistically, they need to be personally involved in the field. And when I see teenagers and adults volunteering to teach science to kids, and you see the amazed faces of those kids, you know that you've influenced these people's lives forever.

Why did you start Scienkidfic Xplorers?

There are two reasons I wanted to establish Scienkidfic Xplorers. First, being a preschool teacher that was fond of science, I was often asked, "why are you in the early childhood level if you're into science?" as if science is only for adults. The ideas was that there is no room for scientific learning in the preschool classroom. It got me thinking that this is exactly the reason why STEM is just not integrated that much in the Philippines - we are led to believe that science is only for adults, specifically the genius and elite.

Second, I became a volunteer science communicator in a renowned science museum in my country. As much as I enjoyed demonstrating science experiments and explaining theories and concepts, it was clear that I was only catering to a more privileged group (as not everyone can afford to go to a museum and pay $15 for a ticket).

Because of these reasons, I wanted to create change. What started as a way to make STEM education reach underprivileged communities is now focused on integrating STEM into the whole of society, by creating events such as pitch competitions, health awareness artwork contests, and public STEM fairs. I wanted to see my country be a nation steered by science.

In your field, do you have advice on how to navigate from entry level positions to more leadership roles?

Being a humanities graduate, there aren’t many opportunities to get involved in STEM. I definitely felt lost, like I did not belong to this field even though I really loved it. But it was through my advocacy that I realized what I really wanted to do. I have two pieces of advice. One is to volunteer for science. It was only my involvement in the science museum that really made me feel that I was contributing to STEM. Search for volunteer opportunities involved with science. It doesn't have to be at a major institution, and it doesn't have to be applied science. Just join an event that stokes your curiosity and creativity. Second, if there's no opportunity out there to be involved in science, then make your own. It doesn’t have to be that big. If you are interested in advocacy, a cause, or an idea, go for it. Use social media to your advantage.

What advice would you give a high school student looking to go into STEM communication?

You'll be able to appreciate and understand the importance of science communication by giving back to your community. For people like us, we have the luxury to go to school, to read a book, and to write. Not everyone has the privilege to do that. So for everything you will do, make sure to involve underprivileged communities. Afterall, if you want to be a science communicator, most of the audience you'll cater to would be for non-STEM individuals. Scientists already know what the field is all about, they understand the relevance of what you are doing, but for people who are not in the field, if you really want them to appreciate science, you must cater to them.

Do you have any "asks" for the reader?

I believe that we were all once a scientist -- when we were young, everything was so exciting and we had so many questions, as simple as "Why are there clouds?" or "Why is the ant small?" Being adults, we get caught up in our daily routines, worrying and concerned with what's going to happen in the future. Because of that, we forget to look around and appreciate the beauty of life at the moment. But we should never stop asking even the simplest of questions. Try it: everyday, just look around and see something that makes you curious. From there, see where it takes you! That jacket you’re wearing, the weather today, or that food you're eating right now could just be the next big thing. You are a scientist and the world is a lab. Ask questions, explore, and create!

Kelsey Stone, Aerial Observer and Research Assistant at the New England Aquarium

Kelsey Stone, Aerial Observer and Research Assistant at the New England Aquarium