Inspirational high school teacher helps shape the future of MSU scientist

Local News

Photo Credit: Alec Gerstenberger, MSU

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – An MSU microbiologist says she wouldn’t be the student she is today if it weren’t for her high school chemistry teacher.

Kayla Conner is a doctoral candidate in the Michigan State University Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Now Conner is determined to increase the number of women and girls going into STEM fields. Only about 24 percent of the STEM workforce is made up of women.

She is part of MSU’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training, an experimental program dedicated to empowering graduate student trainees to develop professional skills and experiences.

“It’s not a man’s game,” Conner says. “It is absolutely a woman’s game as well. We can be awesome scientists and be awesome mothers, friends and daughters and be whatever we want to be.”

Attending a small high school that lacked resources for students who wanted to pursue higher education, Conner looked up to her chemistry teacher, Ms. Hardin, and found encouragement to continue her studies.

“She told me how well I was doing even when I felt like I wasn’t,” says Conner. “I thought, ‘Man, you know if she thinks I can do it, then maybe I can.’”

Hardin says that Conner gives her too much credit.

“She has a scientific mind and she’s curious,” says Hardin.

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