STEM superhero

Mild-mannered rocket engineer Steph Evans is out to change perceptions through her YouTube channel, the STEMulus. Image by Rob Cabrera of Creative Squirrels.

Mild-mannered test engineer by day, Missouri S&T alumna Steph Evans is out to change perceptions through her YouTube channel, the STEMulus. Image of Evans and her dog Loki by Rob Cabrera/Creative Squirrels (@RobCabrera/@C_Squirrels).

Steph Evans is out to change the way people look at engineering – and at engineers.

By day, this STEM superhero works as an electrical test engineer at Space Systems Loral in Palo Alto, California. It’s a job she loves, she says, “because the group I work with is small, and as a result, I have been able to do tasks outside of my job description, which has been incredible.”

By night and on weekends, Evans, a 2012 aerospace engineering graduate, devotes hours researching, writing, filming and producing educational videos for her YouTube channel, The STEMulus.

Evans started the channel last February and in just over a year, has gained over 600 followers. In a typical week, she’ll spend 20 to 30 hours creating weekly commentary on the latest science and technology news – a feature she calls This Week in STEM, or TWISTEM – as well as occasional video blogs about her life and interests in space and space-related topics. “It keeps me up a lot of nights, but it’s also a lot of fun,” she says.

She’s also active on Facebook and Twitter, where you’ll find her sharing selfies and geeking out over sci-fi, Star Wars, space exploration, and popular celebrity scientists like Bill Nye (whom she recently met) and Neil deGrasse Tyson. She also uses her social media status on Twitter and Facebook to combat stereotypes in the STEM fields.

Evans was one of only two women in her program’s graduating class of 50, so she knows what it’s like to be in the minority.

But last spring and summer, she joined with other female engineers via social media to show the online world that they are a force to be reckoned with.

That’s when Evans and others took to Twitter, using the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer to rebuff sexist responses to a San Francisco company’s ad campaign that featured a female engineer.

It wasn’t the first time Evans (@StephEvz43 on Twitter) used social media to confront sexist stereotypes.

Last June, when Tim Hunt, the 2001 Nobel Prize winner in physiology or medicine, remarked that working with female scientists was “distracting,” Evans and other female engineers and scientists logged on to poke fun at the biochemist’s sexist remarks.

They posted photos of themselves in lab coats and research labs using the #distractinglysexy hashtag. Those social media posts went viral, and Evans found a photo she tweeted of herself in a bunny suit while an S&T student prominently displayed in a BBC article about the phenomenon.

“Sexism has always been an obstacle for me, even from the very beginning, especially growing up in the Midwest,” says Evans. “I have experienced it in the workforce and on social media,” as well as in college. She adds, however, that most of her male co-workers are more enlightened about women in the workplace “and check themselves on micro-aggressions.”

 

“Guys like these are going to drive change in the industry and make it a more welcoming place for women and other minorities,” Evans says.

Growing up in Mascoutah, Illinois, Evans dreamed of becoming an astronaut. “I always loved space, but it wasn’t until high school that I heard the term ‘aerospace engineer,’ and that was when everything kind of clicked into place for me,” she says.

“Quite frankly, when I look back on my life, the fact that I pursued engineering at all is a surprise,” she says. “The resources just weren’t there. I had my parents (both are high school teachers), who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, and they made sure I had whatever books I wanted to read and science experiments I wanted to do, but there were no outreach programs or science clubs when I was younger.”

Nor did she know of any female role models in engineering and science. She knew only of Marie Curie, “because that was the only woman we discussed in school.”

Evans wants young women to have more STEM role models. She sees the Internet as an avenue for greater outreach and awareness.

“The Internet is an excellent tool for information dissemination,” Evans says, “and I thought YouTube would be the perfect platform to become a visible female STEM representative and take my passion for outreach and make it fun while hopefully inspiring a few young people along the way.

“Overall, I just want to be the visible female STEM role model that I lacked growing up – not because they weren’t out there, but because I just had no idea they existed,” she says. “I hope that if there’s a little girl out there that is the ‘weird’ kid who is interested in science like I was, she might watch The STEMulus and see someone just like her and not be afraid to pursue her interests.”

Comments

  1. Daniel Oerther says:

    Awesome story! Thanks for sharing and for the work you do superhero Steph!

  2. Randall Lewis says:

    Great story on Stephanie Evans. She TA’d for me in my Manufacturing Processes lab in ME and she was a very smart young lady and I thought she would go far. It’s good to see her doing well in a job she really enjoys. And she gets to use her creative side to promote STEM and the role women can and should play. She is a good role model for young ladies and we do need more of them in STEM. Congrats on your story Steph.