A 1976 report, The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science, highlighted three challenges faced by underrepresented women in scientific disciplines: gender, race or ethnicity, and having a career in a STEM field. These same obstacles were familiar to Alessandra Bliss, a scholar in The Ohio State University’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program.
As an undergraduate Black, Latina woman in science, Alessandra, or Ale, as she likes to be called, has learned the importance of advocating for herself and also finding mentors who will advocate for her. Through the LSAMP Program, housed in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Ale has been supported during her journey to a STEM degree. “LSAMP is an amazing program that I have had the honor of being a part of since my first year at Ohio State. The personalized attention from my LSAMP advisors and mentors has been integral to my success at Ohio State,” she stated.
Ale has long been aware of the benefits of having mentors and a support system as she works toward her goal of a career in science. Although her parents work in the banking industry, as a young girl, they encouraged Ale’s fascination with the human body and convinced her to pursue a summer internship program at the nearby Cleveland Clinic. “I became enamored with science, which led me choose a STEM major and pursue research opportunities at Ohio State.” Ale also feels a responsibility to give back to underrepresented women following in her footsteps. “When I think of the mentors I admired as a young girl, I recognize the critical importance of continuing on my journey so that I might one day serve as a role model to young girls like me with big dreams in science and medicine.”
Currently, Ale is studying microbiology – the study of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi and protozoa and how the human body responds to these agents – a major that will help prepare her for a career in medicine. Ale has explored the inner workings of the human body and its interactions with the environment through various undergraduate research opportunities that have shaped her science education at Ohio State. As a sophomore, she worked in a women’s health lab studying the adaptive immune response to Chlamydia trachomatis. Last summer, Ale completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation with Dr. Andrea Doseff in the Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute. Her independent project focused on the anti-bacterial properties of the plant molecule Apigenin. Finally, Ale has started a position with the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center where she works as a research coordinator and enrolls patients in clinical trials. As an LSAMP Scholar, Ale also had the opportunity to present her research at the Ohio LSAMP Alliance Conference, allowing her to improve her networking and presentation skills.
In addition to her studies and research, Ale volunteers at the Franklinton Library with Buckeye Leaders at the Library, a program offered through Ohio State’s Department of Social Change. There, Ale tutors students in the homework help center and leads STEM programming to create interest in science and higher education. She is also a member of the Women’s Club Lacrosse team, a sport she has played since the seventh grade: “I joined the club team once I got to college as a way to stay active. I have made great friends on my team, and I love being able to travel and compete.”
After she graduates in May of 2017, Ale’s goal is to apply to a post-baccalaureate program and then continue on to medical school. Ultimately, she wants to serve as a primary care physician and to continue as a role model for underrepresented women interested in the STEM fields.