More and more women are entering the fields of STEM and are gaining much-needed recognition for their notable achievements. Therefore, it's only right to recognize Lara Eng, a second-year Cognitive Science major at UCLA, as one of the leading ladies behind the Cognitive Science Student Association (CSSA). In her interview, she discusses the importance of women in leadership positions and STEM fields.
Her Campus: Besides CSSA, what other activities are you involved in?
Lara Eng: Aside from CSSA, I'm also involved with the Cultural Affairs Commission. I'm part of a series called Diverse City Tours and we host two trips per quarter where we provide free transportation to different culturally significant neighborhoods in LA! It's an awesome opportunity for students to affordably explore the city outside of Westwood on the weekends!
HC: What is the primary goal of the Cognitive Science Student Association on campus?
LE: The primary goal of the Cognitive Science Student Association at UCLA is to provide a community for students to socially and academically engage with the discipline. For this reason, we welcome all students regardless of their major as long as they have an interest in our meeting topic! At the same time, we also aim to provide professional and career-related resources for those pursuing the major or minor. CSSA hopes to achieve a nice balance of social, academic and practical events that we host for students!
HC: What is your role in CSSA? What are some of your duties?
LE: I serve as the Co-Director of Marketing and Outreach for CSSA. I'm responsible for publicizing our weekly general meetings as well as drafting the CSSA newsletter that compiles CSSA-related events, department news and other local opportunities. Additionally, we host an annual CogSci Conference in the spring, so I'm currently a bit preoccupied with marketing duties right now! Basically, my role with CSSA is to publicize the organization and its events to the student body which is a never-ending task!
HC: What makes Cognitive Science so interesting?
LE: The CogSci major is actually composed of classes from various departments (Psychology, Program in Computing, Linguistics, Philosophy, Neuroscience, and more!), so there is always so much to learn. Cognitive Science is formally defined as the study of the mind and its processes, which can be examined through a variety of perspectives. One area of study, for example, is artificial intelligence where the goal is essentially to model and reproduce the thought process of a human mind into a machine. Everything CogSci-related is super relevant to today's technology and society, and it's pretty remarkable to see how this field is shaping our future!
HC: Were there any experiences or things you are passionate about that led you to Cognitive Science?
LE: I've always been pretty interested in all aspects of human behavior, so entering UCLA as a CogSci major seemed very natural to me. Understanding other people and the thought process behind their decision-making is something I will always be fascinated with, so I'm pretty lucky that I'm able to study something I'm passionate about.
HC: Why is it so important for women to be involved in STEM?
LE: Having more women involved in STEM cannot be stressed enough! Truthfully, there is no good argument that can be made for why women shouldn't be in STEM fields; we are just as qualified, capable and enthusiastic as our male counterparts. The only difference is that we've been formally and informally barred from entry for years. More women — especially women of color — going into STEM is necessary for eliminating the gender disparity and pay gap that still exists, and it just creates an overall better environment for productivity.
HC: Why is it so important for there to be a future in which more women are in leadership roles?
LE: It is important to see other women in leadership positions in order to inspire future generations of girls and provide them with models of achievement. Seeing women as positive role models alleviate the "stereotype threat" and therefore is necessary to serve as representation for young girls. Having women in positions of power is not meant to simply "fill a quota," but it is vital to the diversification of thought. How can it be productive to constantly hear the same ideas coming from people of the same perspective? Women should be equally represented in all aspects of life — whether in leadership roles or STEM fields.
Thank you Lara, for sharing your powerful perspective on women in STEM. We can't wait to see what you do in the future!