In mid-November, six King students attended the Girls Advancing In STEM (GAINS) conference in what was the first in-person gathering for the community since the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which took place at Yale University, spanned three days during which high school girls interested in STEM connected with role models working in STEM fields.
Antonia Kolb ’24, who attended the conference, joined the King GAINS club freshman year and currently serves as co-president.
“STEM should be accessible to all genders,” said Antonia. “I think that everyone, regardless of age or gender, should be able to embrace STEM because it is the gateway to the future. We need scientists and change more so than ever.”
Antonia is familiar with Yale. With the guidance of Director of Science Research Dr. Victoria Schulman, Antonia landed a two-year internship at the Hu Lab for Energy Science at the university. She is currently working on a self-generated ground-breaking project with her lab mentor to convert methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into methanol that can be used as fuel. Antonia also came up with an application of photocatalytic environmental remediation that uses nanotechnology for the photodegradation of oil spills.
“I have been able to work on cutting-edge research with graduate students and professors on various different projects,” Antonia said. “I have also self-initiated a project I am currently working on with my mentor.”
Mentorship is central to the GAINS mission. Conference attendees participated in technical talks, STEM workplace tours, a career mixer, and other events designed to help high school girls build a network of peers and role models.
“The GAINS program does an excellent job providing STEM opportunities for girls and demystifying the process of starting a career in STEM, which is critical for both their growth and development as well as society's,” said Schulman, who attended the conference with the students.
Schulman was one of few women in the sciences at the start of her career and actively sought out women in the field to serve as mentors.
“I often felt like I didn't belong or that I wasn't worthy or smart enough to be part of what was clearly a ‘boys club’ in some scenarios,” she said. “I specifically chose a working mother as my graduate school thesis advisor and lab head, and it made a huge difference in my belief in myself as a scientist. I felt empowered, not pushed aside.”
The networking opportunities at the GAINS conference offered students an opportunity to find support as they embark on their STEM journeys.
“It was a very moving and motivational experience for all our delegates,” said Schulman. “I can't wait to take the next group next year.”
During the conference, Antonia led fellow GAINS club members Taylor Ansel ’25, Olivia Barta ’24, Nily Genger ’24, Nicole Guido ’24, and Lilly Heaton ’24 on a tour of the Hu Lab and Yale's Energy Science Institute, where they were able to see the research that Antonia has been working on.
“I have always been curious about problems that I was concerned about, such as energy, the environment, and health,” said Antonia. “I found that science was the solution to solve these problems and truly make a difference. King has been incredibly supportive, and without ASPIRE and Dr. Schulman, I would not be where I am today.”