Computer Scientist | Women’s Empowerment | Founder of Girlopolis
In 2020, Mary Kay launched the Young Women in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) grant program and social campaign to help shift the perception of “the face of science,” and encourage young women to pursue STEAM paths. Since then, we have awarded nearly 20 grants to young women in STEM.
Meet Ani Petrosyan, an international student studying computer science at the University of Pennsylvania and one of our 2023 Young Women in STEM grant recipients. Ani is working on projects related to Computer Vision and Natural Language Processing, which allow her to apply skills in an active environment. She has founded an initiative called Girlopolis, a hackathon for girls interested in business and computer science. When she was 12 years old, Ani participated in her first robotics workshop which began her passion for STEM. She believes that success in STEM is not linear, but will gradually build with time, and surrounding yourself with friends, mentors and role models is key to helping with that success.
Describe your STEM projects/interests.
I am an international student studying computer science at the University of Pennsylvania. Recognizing the limited opportunities for females in computer science in my home country of Armenia, I made the decision to study abroad to gain knowledge and experience in the field. However, my motivation extends beyond personal growth. I am passionate about empowering other females in Armenia to pursue computer science and create a more inclusive environment.
To address this goal, I have founded an initiative called Girlopolis. Girlopolis is a hackathon specifically designed for girls interested in computer science and business. The primary objective of Girlopolis is to encourage the participants to explore their ideas, develop startups, and enhance their computer science skills.
Through Girlopolis, my team and I aim to create a supportive and collaborative community where young women can network with like-minded individuals, and gain exposure to the world of technology. Girlopolis aims to equip participants with the tools and confidence necessary to succeed in the field of computer science.
In addition to my efforts with Girlopolis, I am actively engaged in projects related to Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Computer Vision. These projects allow me to apply my computer science skills in practical contexts and explore cutting-edge technologies in these fields.
What/Who inspired you to get into STEM?
At the age of 12, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies in Armenia, where I embarked on my first workshop in robotics. There were 120 boys registered in the workshop and only three girls, and I was privileged to be one of those girls. However, what truly left a lasting impression on me was our robotics teacher, Susanna Galstyan, a remarkable woman who quickly became one of the most inspiring educators I have ever had.
Susanna Galstyan’s passion for robotics was infectious. Her knowledge and expertise in the field were evident, but it was her dedication and unwavering belief in my abilities that truly motivated me. She saw beyond stereotypes and encouraged me to defy expectations, empowering me to pursue an interest in STEM.
What are some advantages you think being a female brings to the STEM field?
Participating in various women in STEM events, such as the FemInno conference in Armenia and the WECode conference in Harvard, has provided me with a profound appreciation for the advantages that being a female brings to the STEM field. One of the most significant advantages is the availability of mentorship and role modeling. I have personally witnessed that as more women enter and succeed in STEM fields, they naturally serve as role models and mentors for aspiring female scientists and engineers. This mentorship and guidance from accomplished women in STEM not only inspire the next generation but also provide invaluable support, guidance, and encouragement throughout their journey.
Furthermore, women’s involvement in STEM enhances global perspectives. STEM fields have a profound global impact, and women’s inclusion brings a broader understanding of global issues and challenges. Women often bring diverse cultural experiences, unique perspectives, and insights into the complexities of societal needs across different regions. This broader perspective helps shape more comprehensive and culturally sensitive solutions that can effectively address the diverse needs of communities worldwide.
What would you tell young girls who are interested in STEM, but too intimidated or discouraged to pursue it?
Now, more than ever, the world of STEM is incredibly dynamic and fascinating due to the rapid advancements in technology and the growing involvement of AI. These developments present an exciting and unprecedented time to be part of the STEM community. If you have a genuine passion for making a difference in the world, now is the perfect moment to embark on your STEM journey.
The path to success in STEM is not a linear one. It’s okay to start small and gradually build your knowledge and skills. Surround yourself with supportive mentors, friends, and role models who can guide and inspire you along the way. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.
What do you think is most exciting about the future of STEM, and is there a specific advancement you’d like to see happen?
One aspect that particularly intrigues me is the application of AI in solving critical global issues. AI has the capability to analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and provide valuable insights that can aid in addressing complex challenges in fields like healthcare, climate change, and social inequality.
Additionally, by leveraging the metaverse, we can revolutionize education, creating interactive environments that enhance engagement, and enable people from diverse backgrounds to access quality education regardless of their geographic location.
Who’s your favorite female icon and why?
Marie Lou Papazian, the managing director at Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, is my favorite female icon for a multitude of reasons. Her profound dedication and unwavering commitment to transforming the lives of young individuals through technology and creative education have left an indelible impact on my own journey.
As a 12-year-old, I entered Tumo Center with little to no knowledge about STEM fields. With no familial background in technology and limited resources at my school, I was unsure of how to explore my interests and potential in this domain. However, Marie Lou Papazian’s visionary leadership and her relentless efforts in establishing Tumo Center provided me with the opportunities and guidance I needed to thrive.
Under her stewardship, Tumo Center has become a beacon of hope for countless young individuals like me, who are eager to explore the realms of technology, creativity, and innovation. Marie Lou Papazian’s unwavering belief in the transformative power of education has led to the creation of an inclusive and empowering environment, where students are encouraged to dream big, think critically, and develop their skills in various disciplines.
2023 Young Women in STEM grant recipient, Ani Petrosyan