Did you know that less than 6.7% of women in the US and 16% globally graduate with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) degrees? Does this statistic surprise you? Unfortunately, the lack of females in STEM careers is not a new phenomenon. Women occupy less than 24% of STEM jobs worldwide, with less than 9% in engineering or physics, the most male-dominated science fields. Removing a female perspective from STEM eliminates 50% of our world’s greatest minds and innovators in the process. It is imperative that women are not just allowed, but encouraged, to contribute to scientific discovery.


Our goal is to combat the gender gap in STEM fields by cultivating a passion for science starting in the middle school years.



We believe that starting STEM outreach for middle school girls will help to prepare them for science opportunities in high school and encourage a passion for STEM that they will carry through to higher education. Our focus is centered around collaborating with Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) to organize monthly science workshops for local middle school girls in Santa Cruz County. During these workshops, students will take part in: hands-on lab activities, lab tours of UC Santa Cruz facilities, and panel sessions with local women scientists and professionals.If you are interested in learning more about SIS, feel free to contact us!

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Riley (she/her) is a second year PhD student in John MacMillan’s lab in the Chemistry and Biochemistry department at UCSC. The MacMillan lab is a traditional natural products lab, focusing on biologically relevant molecules produced in the environment. Riley’s work focuses on developing methods to screen for and isolate boron-containing natural products and gain insight into the role of boron in biological systems.


Riley runs the SIS program (since fall 2021) and has been a member of WISE since 2020. She enjoys sharing her love of science with her peers and people of all ages and loves showing young people that science can be fun and fulfilling. Riley hopes her work with SIS will help to inspire young people from underrepresented groups in STEM and show them a future in science is achievable.

Riley Blue


Anna (she/her) is a fifth year PhD student in Dr. Alexander Ayzner's Lab at UC Santa Cruz in the chemistry and biochemistry department. Taking its inspiration from the process of photosynthesis, the Ayzner Lab studies the electronic processes of organic semiconductors for applications in organic photovoltaic (aka solar cell) devices.


Anna joined WISE in 2017 as an outreach officer and has played an active role in helping start the SIS program. She is excited to be involved in a program which unites professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and the community under the common goal of inspiring young women to pursue their interest in STEM related disciplines. 

Anna Johnston

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Shanna (she/her) is a fourth year PhD student in Don Smith’s lab at UCSC, in the Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology department. The Smith lab studies how developmental exposure to metals such as manganese and lead can lead to neurodevelopmental and behavior changes. She’s currently researching ways in which we can treat symptoms caused by manganese exposure, and whether we can prevent them from occurring.


Shanna is currently the co-president of WiSE, and has been involved with WiSE and SIS since 2018. She loves having the opportunity to do outreach activities with people of all ages in the Santa Cruz and surrounding communities. Her goal is to inspire young people, particularly girls and others from historically excluded groups, to pursue STEM and to feel that they have a place in the STEM community. By exposing students to the wide variety of research being done at UCSC by a diverse group of scientists, she hopes that students will find something that speaks to their own interests, and see role models who show them that anyone can be a scientist!

Shanna Howard


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Vanessa (she/they) is a second year PhD student in the Microbiology and Environmental Toxicology (METX) department at UCSC. Vanessa is co-mentored by Fitnat Yildiz (METX) and Seth Rubin (BIOCHEM). Vanessa's bacterial genetics and biochemical research focuses on a critical protein in the model organism, Vibrio cholerae, responsible for synthesizing c-di-GMP, an important second messenger for biofilm formation in many bacteria. Vanessa hopes to one day be a professor and have their own research lab where they can continue to do interdisciplinary research.

Vanessa has been the social media officer for WiSE since 2022, and has been involved with SIS since then. Vanessa enjoys doing outreach in the community and doing science with people of all ages. Vanessa hopes to inspire young individuals from all backgrounds to pursue STEM.

Vanessa Mariscal

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Renee (she/her) is a third year PhD candidate in the Biological Anthropology, advised by Dr. Paul Koch and Dr. Vicky Oelze. She is a member of the PEMA and Koch Labs, where she uses transition metal (Fe, Cu, Zn) stable isotope analysis to examine age, sex, and diet in a wild population of chimpanzees, thereby establishing a reference dataset with the potential for applications in biomedical and evolutionary research addressing interspecific variation in ontogeny, reproductive biology and diet.


Renee is a member of WiSE since 2019, and has been involved with SIS since 2022. She loves engaging in outreach events, because it shows inquisitive young minds that becoming a researcher is within their reach. By bridging the gap between academia and the community, we can expand local interest in all the remarkably diverse research being done at UCSC. Her goal is to encourage girls from all backgrounds that science can impact the world and that they can be a big part of this!

Renee Boucher

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Anica Pinoncgos

Anica (she/her) is a second year Chemistry PhD student in Yat Li’s lab at UCSC. The Li lab focuses on designing and fabricating nanomaterials as well as understanding their chemical and physical properties for potential applications in catalysis, energy storage, and energy conversion. Anica is currently developing a high-performance, reliable, safe, low cost, and environmentally benign energy storage device that will support explorations and scientific advancement at the ultralow temperature environments. She’s also enhancing the conductivity of doped hematite for photoelectrochemical water splitting. 


Anica has been involved with WiSE and SIS since 2021. She enjoys participating in outreach programs. She aspires to supplement and enhance the traditional classroom curricula and set the young generation on an academic track towards STEM.

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Marie (she/her) is a first year Master’s student in Yi Zuo’s lab in the Molecular, Cell and Biology department at UCSC. The Zuo lab studies connectivity and synaptic plasticity in the brain, and specifically looks at behavioral and connectivity dynamics under stress, genetic conditions, and psychedelic treatments. Marie is studying whether the gene responsible for causing Fragile X Syndrome cell-autonomously causes abnormal dendritic spine dynamics in a mouse model.


Marie joined WiSE in Fall 2021 and enjoys helping to lead SIS events. She is passionate about inspiring the next generation to pursue science and loves to show people of all ages how fascinating it is. She hopes to encourage more women and underrepresented groups to get involved in science, and to increase opportunities and accessibility for these groups.

Marie Gredell

Megan Gurer

Megan is a rising senior at Scotts Valley High School with an immense passion for science. She is grateful for the opportunities she has had to participate in research through summer internships and hopes to guide and inspire more girls to do the same. During her sophomore year, Megan interned in the UC Santa Cruz Earth and Marine Sciences Department and Richmond Field Station at UC Berkeley where she explored grain transport under low flow conditions in rivers. Her work was recently published at the American Geophysical Fall Meeting Poster Session in San Francisco last December. Currently Megan is interning at the UCSC Genomics Institute identifying genetic mutations associated with Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and Type II Diabetes. Her research will be presented at the Northern California Computational Biology Symposium in the fall and will be submitted to the Oxford Journal of Human and Molecular Genetics. As a result of being selected as one of the 100 recipients nationwide for the Emperor Science Award, Megan is also working virtually with Professor Joe Ramos at the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center to analyze possible inhibitors of the NF-kappaB protein, which promotes tumor growth in lung cancer cells (mesothelioma). Megan also sits on the editorial board and the publicity team for the International Youth Neuroscience Association and reads and edits articles about the brain with up-to-date science and medical content.