International Women's Day Q&A with Scientists and Staff

International Womens Day

International Women's Day Q&A with Scientists and Staff

UC Davis EHSC Celebrates International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women's Day. To celebrate, we sat down with some of our staff and scientists to ask about the women who inspired them.

Below is a transcript of our conversations – edited for brevity and clarity. 

What message would you share with your past self/young girls today?

Shosha Capps: For better or worse, the world will change in your lifetime in ways you can't imagine. Don't let your dreams be constrained by what is possible today.

Jasmine Montes: To my past self and young girls, I would say, keep going even if others can’t see your worth; it gets better. There were times I was one of the few Hispanic women in a science classroom. However, I pushed through the challenges and now work as a researcher. I am even pursuing a graduate degree in STEM. Let the challenges you face be your motivation to move forward. Know that you are where you are because you deserve to be there.  

Samantha Libreros: The world out there will push you to explore new things, test your limits, and have lots of challenges. But do not worry. You are strong. You will overcome all the challenges and learn from each one of them. Remember that everything happens for a reason.

Kathyn Conlon, Ph.D: I would advise my younger self to trust her gut, that her gut is moving her down a path that is both intellectually rewarding and personally rewarding. 

Laura Van Winkle, Ph.D: Number one would be to persist. But number two, don't be afraid to be bold. Don't be afraid to venture beyond your comfort zone and go after what you want. 

Judy A Van De Water, Ph.D: Honestly, I think I would remind my younger self to listen to what my mom had always said: Always be independent, don’t be afraid to be strong, be true to yourself, and don’t change yourself for anyone else, never depend on anyone else to take care of you, and you can be anything that you want to be, if you put in the time and the effort. 

Women annual retrest
EHSC Scientists at the 2022 EHSC Annual Retreat

Has there been a woman that inspired you in your life and/or work?

Jasmine mom
Jasmine Montes and her mom

Shosha Capps: My mom. We don't agree about everything, but she is more committed to living out her values than anyone I know. She's someone who'll always choose to do the hard, right thing. 

Jasmine Montes: My mom has always been an inspiration to me. She came to the US at 16 from Mexico and learned how to navigate this country and learn a new language. Today she has an amazing job at an amazing company. It was inspiring growing up and seeing her journey from working at a grocery store to moving to corporate productions. She always ensured that my family had everything we needed to be our best selves. Another inspiration of mine is Katya Echazarreta (you can read about her here). She is the first Mexican-born woman to go to space at 27! She inspires me to keep going despite the odds. I am so happy that little girls everywhere can see her achievements and hopefully acknowledge that they can do anything: the sky's the limit.  

Angelina Angelo: My mom is my biggest inspiration. She has overcome every obstacle the universe has thrown her way and is beyond resilient. She has raised three beautiful women, teaching us the importance of standing up for what we believe in and being unapologetically ourselves.

Samantha Libreros: My mother and grandma inspire me every day. My grandma inspires me as she was among the first women in Mexico to study Physical Education, a male-dominated field. My mother also inspires me because she is a single mother. I am grateful for having her because I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her guidance and strength.

Laura Van Winkle, Ph.D: My biggest female inspiration is my grandmother. When pursuing education, she was initially admitted to an Ivy on the East Coast for a Ph.D. program. But they wouldn’t let her take the chemistry lab because, according to them, having women in the lab would be “distracting for the men” and could be “dangerous.” She knew she needed Chemistry to be a good scientist, so she took her education into her own hands and transferred to Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. in Zoology. 

Pam Lein, Ph.D: I'd have to go all the way back to sixth grade. Mrs. Fox was my Math teacher.  The sixth grade was about when women began to drop out of math and sciences. But she was just this energetic force. She got many people in the class excited about math, and she really triggered my enthusiasm for quantitative science. Mrs. Fox was a very early inspiration to me. 

Judy A Van De Water, Ph.D: My biggest inspiration was my mom. She was definitely a woman ahead of her time and provided a great role model for who I am today. And she loved that I am a ‘doctor,’ even if I am just a “Ph.D. doctor.”

Authors Note: Thank you to our scientists and staff members for their commitment to this project and for sharing with us. I wish you a Happy International Women’s Day and hope you take this day to celebrate all the amazing women in your life.

Angelina Angelo (Staff Image)


Angelina is an EHSC editorial assistant for the communications department and an undergraduate student at UC Davis studying Human Development. She is an aspiring writer with a focus on science communication.