Women in STEM LLC moves into Wells Quad


Sophomore Jessica Felker, Melissa Blunck, director of the Women in STEM LLC, and sophomore Neha Patel sit in the Women in STEM LLC on Sept. 27. The Women in STEM LLC started in 2012 as a thematic community before becoming an official LLC located in Wells Quad.  Mallory Smith Buy Photos

Two-hour group study with graduate students, research opportunities and summer internships: These are some of the pros sophomores Jessica Felker and Neha Patel said they enjoyed about the Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Living-Learning Center. 

“The goal of the Women in STEM LLC is to recruit and maintain women in STEM fields because women are often underrepresented in these areas,” LLC Director Melissa Blunck said. 

The Women in STEM LLC started in 2012 as a thematic community before becoming an official LLC, in Wells Quad. There are 50 women in the program. The most popular majors within the LLC are biology, neuroscience and biochemistry, Blunck said. 

Blunck has been the director since the spring 2016 semester. 

“Big props to Melissa for going above and beyond,” Patel said. “She gives us these great opportunities like breakfast with Mae Jemison.”

Mae Jemison was the first black woman to travel to space and the first astronaut to appear on the television show “Star Trek.” 

Patel and Felker are both neuroscience majors. Patel said she wants to be a neurosurgeon. Felker said she is leaning toward a career in health care. 

“I want to take care of people,” Felker said. 

Patel discovered the LLC through a friend's recommendation.

“It gives you a good support system where there are girls around you who are facing the same troubles, who have the same aspirations as you,” Patel said. “They are basically your support system in a campus that’s as large as IU.”

Felker said she discovered the LLC by scrolling through IU's list of LLC and thematic communities. After looking at the Women in STEM LLC Facebook page and website, she said she decided it was a good fit for her. 

“I like the community and having all these activities and getting to hear from important speakers,” Felker said. “Just things I wouldn’t think of going to if they were just randomly on campus.”

Twice a week, the LLC has a two-hour group study session with graduate student tutors studying math and chemistry. Felker said it’s nice because it’s less crowded than an academic support center in a dorm. 

Patel works in the Tracey Lab at IU, which does research in nueroscience. Everyone in the Tracey Lab is female except for one of the lab leaders. 

The LLC offers research and networking opportunities to help women get a leg up, Blunck said. 

“It’s important for women to be in STEM for equality and for the woman perspective,” Patel said.

Felker said it’s important for women to be involved in STEM for niche purposes, too, like her interest in health care. 

“There have been studies that show that for a long time that drugs were only tested on male animals,” Felker said. “Because of that, the drugs' effects on women weren’t known. And now they are finding that there are in fact differences in how these drugs affect women versus men.”

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