After honoring Hunter chemistry professor Mandë Holford, PhD, with a 2019 “Women of Discovery Humanity Award” in New York City, the nonprofit WINGS WorldQuest, which recognizes and supports extraordinary women in science and exploration, asked Holford how she first became interested in science.
WINGS WORLDQUEST: Tell us your story. How did you get involved in science and in your field specifically?
MANDË HOLFORD: I got involved in science through a mentor. I wasn’t a kid who grew up knowing I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted to be a track star and run in the Olympics. One ill-fated trip to the University of Pennsylvania Relays while I was in college killed that dream. My team was dead last in EVERY race. I also noticed the girls were bigger, stronger, and more focused (aka meaner) than I was. They wanted it much more than I did. I decided I needed a plan B. That’s when my intro chemistry professor, Dr. Johnson, asked me to work in his lab for an undergraduate summer science internship. Even though I didn’t know what we were going to do in his lab, I accepted the minute he told me it had a stipend. I always did well in math and science classes, but wasn’t excited by them because they were taught as facts, not as discoveries. It was, “we know the planets in the universe.” “We know the organelles in a cell.” “We know, we, know…” What was left to discover if we know everything? That first summer in Dr. Johnson’s lab I didn’t know, I discovered and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a scientist.