I was having a wrap up meeting with my advisor few days ago, and he asked me something like “tell me what you really want to do, in general”. I can’t stop thinking this question.

My path to this postiion is not common. My undergraduate program, master’s program, and PhD program are all different. They are all in the “education” category in general, but the focuses are diverse. I completed my undergrad back in China, which is a program that is only offered in China, and it has nothing to do with STEM. I was not happy during that time for several reasons, and I had no idea why I was there and where I would be in the future then. I started to look for intern positions starting the third year, but I was trying to jump out of my undergrad program. Things were not easy because I found that I bascially had no technical skills, and the only jobs I could manage were clerical-related jobs. These positions were paid much less than STEM-related positions, and the promotion space was close to 0. At that time I started to reflect why I chose this program at the very first beginning. I recalled that I did not choose any STEM program when applied for universities because I was super incofident about my Math. However, the point was my math grades were not bad, at least not as bad as I thought. Other than that, people around me, especially the older generation, they hold the thoughts that 1) “girls do not need to have an incredible career, just find a stable job like teacher and get married”; 2)girls’ logical skills are born not as good as boys. I was raised in such toxic environment, and plus I do have some talent in writing, I always felt bad about my STEM subjects. With all other external and internal factors, I ended up in an art program.

I decided to step out of my comfort zone and change the dilemma. After months of self-struglling, and months of (intense) conversations with my parents, I made my mind that I would leave here and study abroad. Application stage was not easy for me. My GPA in undergrad was not good because I had resistent emotion towards what I studied; none of my internship experiences was in the STEM field; I have no international connection. I was rejected by almost most US institutions at that time but Hopkins took me in the end.

The master program I did in Hopkins was focused on STEM education, but generally it was about curriculum. So, still, I did not get the chance to learn any technical skills. The good thing was I grasped a general understanding of what is STEM education, and I took every chance to teach local students when I was in Hopkins. During this time, I participated in several research projects as well. One project that I participated was about educational technology and language acquisition, which inspired me to think about if I can do something about integrating technology into STEM education.

With all the experience I had, either teaching or research, I started to think about what is my research interet when applying for the PhD programs. Technology was the first keyword I could think of, not only because of what I did in the past, but also because of its own features. In terms of the definition of technology, I’m only talking about digital tools here. Technology is hard to define good or bad, but it is everywhere in people’s life. In the educational field, it is even more controversial. As something that just exists for decades, changes almost every second, and rapidly occupy people’s life, the long-term effect of technology has not been revealed. Education relates to children’s life, which involves ethical considerations. It is risky to integrate technology into education. This field, educational technology, is vigorously developing and will keep up the trend in the next few decades. It’s a young, controversial, and dynamic area. That’s an important reason I chose this path.

In summary, technology in STEM education is a major aspect that I’ll work on in the next few years. At this stage, I was truly attracted by the work has been done by reading literatures in the field. There are so many questions/issues need to be conducted, and I am very excited about my future work.