Former Sun Prairie High School student Kyla Smith is opening doors for herself and future generations of women in STEM.
Smith will graduate next month from the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater and is attending Rutgers University this fall to pursue a doctoral degree in toxicology.
“I want to influence policy regarding contaminant exposures, particularly for communities that don’t have a voice within the government,” said Smith. “My goal is to ensure there is not a disproportionate amount of contaminant exposure in communities of color and low-income communities by educating policymakers on the negative effects contaminants have on the human body.”
Smith decided to apply to colleges as a first-generation student in the spring of 2018. When she first entered college at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater, she had no idea what she wanted to do. Ultimately, she decided to major in biology since she loved her science and math courses in high school. Professors and mentors at her university later introduced her to the field of toxicology, which allows her to combine her passion for issues relating to healthcare and environmental justice.
However, getting to where she is today was not always easy. “I have faced microaggressions as a woman in STEM, particularly a black woman in STEM,” said Smith. “I have had to prove my intelligence multiple times in groups of mainly white males. There were times I felt like I did not belong just because of the lack of representation of people that look and identify the same as I do in my classes.”
“I want all girls pursuing a degree in STEM to know they belong,” Smith said. “You deserve to be where you are.”