Isabella: Scientist, Math Education Advocate, and Founder of “Hello World, The Future is Female”

Isabella is a student from the United States who attended the Summer STEM Institute (SSI). Isabella is interested in sustainability, mental health, and healthcare research, and she is also passionate about mathematics and getting younger students excited about math through the Orlando Math Circle. Outside of science, research, and technology, Isabella has founded several community initiatives, including Girl Talk and Let’s Talk. More recently, after SSI, Isabella was inspired to start a podcast, “Hello World, The Future is Female,” to inspire girls around the world to make change. You can learn more about Isabella, her podcast, and all the other amazing things she’s been up to in the interview below, and you can also check out her podcast here

How did you first become interested in science or research? 

I was first introduced to science research in middle school. I heard of my friends competing in science fairs in high school, and I was really fascinated by their projects. Before, I only thought that people who had PhDs conducted research, so I thought it was really cool that high school students were conducting research. From there, I knew I wanted to learn more about science research, but I didn’t know where to start. That’s why I applied to SSI. 

Since then, I’ve become really interested in sustainability, healthcare, and mental health. I’m really interested in studying how COVID is affecting people’s everyday lives and behavior. Right now, we’re literally living through history. 

What extracurricular activities are you involved in? 

I’m involved with a lot. I really want to explore different subjects and keep my options open. I’m in Varsity golf, and I’m also the President of my grade at school. I play piano and compete in various competitions. I’m also in Public Forum debate, pre-med club, and robotics, and I previously founded a club called Girl Talk and Let’s Talk. The clubs are about mentorship and provide older students with opportunities to mentor younger students. It also provides students with leadership opportunities and supports them on community initiatives. Also, more recently, I started a podcast called “Hello World, The Future is Female” to inspire girls around the world to create change. 

I’m also in the Orlando Math Circle, where I tutor and spread my knowledge by volunteering and getting younger kids excited about math. It’s very fulfilling knowing that I’m making a difference in their lives and teaching them to enjoy math. 

How did you first become interested in math? 

I’ve always been better at math than reading or english, and I’ve always been drawn to solving problems. I remember back in fourth grade, many of my friends were already not liking math and they just hated school because they weren’t good at it. I thought that just because you’re not good at something doesn’t mean you should give up. In fifth grade, I went to a seminar with Po-Shen Loh, a math professor at Carnegie Mellon University who is well known for his work with the mathematics olympiad. He was giving a presentation about math, and it was really exciting. I started getting my friends more into math, and that’s how I developed my love for math and the community I can create by solving problems. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of math and school? 

Recently, I’ve been really interested in media. Before SSI, I never actually understood how the arts and sciences could kind of mesh into one. I’m more of a science person, but I learned that tapping into art and graphic design makes me a lot more creative. I’ve been really into graphic design recently and have been doing it a lot for my podcast. I’m also helping other organizations market their feeds and design their websites. 

Apart from media and design, what are some other skills you learned during SSI? 

SSI was completely life-changing. It sounds a little cliche, but it really changed my perspective and the things I work on. The most valuable skills and lessons I learned were from the Masterclasses. It was really enlightening because speakers went in-depth on how to make the most out of life and relationships. School doesn’t really teach you these types of life skills, so I found this very valuable. Each of the speakers had something different to say about managing friends, stress, or networks. 

Overall, one of the most valuable lessons I learned from SSI was how to network. It’s really made an impact on my life, and it’s actually the reason why I started my podcast. I learned ways to reach out to people, write formal emails, and better use LinkedIn. 

What was your favorite memory from SSI over the summer? 

My favorite memory was one of the last sessions in the programming bootcamp where I got to interact with other students and discuss the ethics of artificial intelligence. A lot of the comments and questions students made were actually really funny to me. Another one of my favorite memories was learning how to use Figma. I literally love Figma. I’ve been helping with graphic design at my school, and I spent three weeks teaching every single one of my teachers how to use Figma. They all love it now. 

Also, this is post-SSI, but I really like the SSI alumni community board because all of us are still in touch. Now, instead of going on my Instagram and seeing all these posts that are mindless and don’t bring any value to me, I follow these organizations that students from SSI created. It’s really inspiring to see how people my age are advancing our future. It’s really mind-blowing, and I really appreciate everyone’s work. 

How has SSI changed the way you view data science or research?

Before SSI, I kind of thought research was like the movies where scientists solved very high-tech, complicated problems that had ten variables and a lot of undefined vocabulary. While research can still be like that, I learned that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. 

Also, near the beginning of the bootcamp, I was trying to find a problem or hypothesis that I wanted to explore. I wanted to look for something unique that nobody had ever done before. From SSI instructors, I learned that my research doesn’t necessarily have to be completely new and specific, but rather, it can dig deeper into what someone else has discovered or go off of a tangent of what has already been found. Also, everyone emphasized that research doesn’t have to win ten awards in the first go. I think it’s a stereotype that’s perpetuated by social media that people are always winning research or science awards. I realized I only saw point A to point D and completely missed the journey from point A to point B to point C  to point D. I know there’s so much work that goes behind every accomplishment. Also, I really appreciated the first Masterclass where the speaker spoke about his research in sixth grade on E. coli. The experiment was so simple, yet so interesting, and I found it so fascinating. Even though he didn’t necessarily win an award, he was experimenting on something fun. I’m trying to find research that interests me. I know that it doesn’t have to lead to an award or huge impact, but I just want to study something I find intriguing. 


What have you been up to after SSI? Are there any projects or research you’ve been working on that you’re excited about? 

I’ve been trying to challenge myself and work on things that are outside of the box. Like I said earlier, I’m starting a podcast. The only reason I’m starting this podcast is because of two lessons from SSI: the networking Masterclass and the lesson on graphic design. You can listen to it here.

Also, through SSI, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different nonprofit organizations. I’ve seen SSI students start blogs, tutoring programs, and other organizations, and it’s really motivating to see what my peers are up to after SSI. I’ve never been in a space before where there are all these students that think like me, ask the same questions as me, and are all interested in the same things. Learning about their work motivates me and it’s made a really positive impact on how I use my time and take advantage of opportunities in high school.