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Biomedical engineering professor at CWRU mentoring next generation of STEM leaders

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Posted at 9:28 AM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 09:29:10-05

CLEVELAND — It’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science today, and one Case Western Reserve University professor is breaking barriers and opening up doors for other women and girls who want to pursue a career in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields.

Dr. Pallavi Tiwari is the assistant professor of biomedical engineering at CWRU, but her journey to higher education was a long road, and an unlikely one for someone who grew up in a small town in India where women were not necessarily expected or encouraged to go to school.

“I grew up in India. I was actually born in a relatively small town where women are not necessarily encouraged to study or necessarily get the privilege of education. And so, fortunately, I was born in a family where my parents were very encouraging and they supported me, and that got me to where I am today,” she said.

After receiving her Ph.D. at Rutgers University, she came to Cleveland to join CWRU where she's able to serve as an example of what’s possible for women.

"Given the position that I'm in, I feel like it's my responsibility to pass that on and to, you know, make myself heard and really sort of have myself as an example of what is possible, what women can do in STEM and the field of STEM," Tiwari said.

At the research labs, she mentors high schools girls who come in and who want to get a better feel of what a career in STEM means. It’s all in an effort to bring more equity to the field of STEM. She received the “100 Women Achieves Award” from the government of India.

“Most of our conferences there are barely 10 to 15% representation of women. And so that tells you of the shortage that we have women who do this kind of work," she said.

Tiwari realized the importance of having someone in your corner and someone to look up to when paving your own way in a field.

“My mother, she was a great influence in my life," Tiwari said. "You know she comes from a science background, but I was just impressed with the amount of things, different things that she can do. You know, she's a multitasker, and that's actually true for for for all mothers. I'm a mother myself now. I have two little kids and just juggling between raising kids and doing research and running a lab, you know, that unto itself is a lot of work.”

There’s still a lot of work to be done. Tiwari says that starts with changing the perception that women are not just the caretakers of their families and communities but can also can be professionals in important fields like science and medicine.

“Anyone can do anything, you know, women can do science, they can do research, they can be space explorers. There's no limit to what we [women and girls] can do,” she said.

Tiwari wants girls in the community to take advantage of the rich ecosystem of science, math, medicine and research in Cleveland and at Case Western Reserve University.

"A lot of initiatives within Case Western and just in Cleveland in general that promote young people, you know, high school students do come on board and do research with us," said Tiwari.

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