Bringing ‘EPIC’ Opportunities to Students
“In scientific research, a lot of things can go wrong, and it can sometimes be easy to lose motivation to keep chasing the unanswered question,” admits Brooke Danielsson, Ph.D. (B.S. ’16). “You must love what you are studying in order to keep going because there can be months where nothing works out, which feels very defeating at the time.”
This sense of perseverance has been a central feature in Danielsson’s academic career. Before New York Tech, she says she had always been a poor student, perpetually unmotivated and uninspired. But she did not give up on her education and found that when she was in the right environment with the right influences, she thrived.
“During my time at New York Tech, I became an ‘A’ student and graduated summa cum laude, and then went on to receive a Ph.D. And now I am working at Yale,” she says. “I owe a tremendous amount of my success to the amazing professors I had along the way. They were always there to help, answer questions, and offer encouragement. They made learning fun, and for that, I am so grateful.” She was so impacted by her experiences and relationships at New York Tech she has decided to pursue a career as a professor.
Although she is still doing her post-doctoral research at Yale, she is not waiting to work with students. In 2018, she launched Engineering Practices in Color (EPIC) with the hopes of broadening underrepresented minorities’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). A dyslexic herself, this endeavor was close to her heart.
“The National Science Foundation published data which found only 2 percent of individuals who have a cognitive disability earn a doctorate in engineering fields. With 34 percent of school-aged children in the United States affected by a learning disability, it is important that the STEM community see people with disabilities as providers of different perspectives and creative solutions to addressing problems in the field.”
Along with a team of STEM teachers, Danielsson works with fifth through eighth graders in two local middle schools, providing STEM workshops once a month. To date, they have worked with more than 400 students, employing a curriculum that uses the five senses to teach complex STEM topics in a fun and unique way.
“STEM is growing at an exponential rate, and we need to change the accessibility to the field while not devaluing its intricacy,” she says. “With EPIC, I hope to remove the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to learning and update the educational practices of STEM, starting on a small scale, while celebrating the diversity of learning.”
Her commitment and dedication to this project are examples of Danielsson’s ability to accomplish something when she is determined, and the scientific and academic world is taking notice. In 2020, EPIC received the American Society of Cell Biology’s Public Engagement Grant to fund workshops for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“New York Tech taught me how to be a critical and analytical thinker. It also taught me the most valuable lesson, which is how I learn best—visually. This helped me a great deal in graduate school and through my work today,” she says. “I also learned how to fruitfully work on a team with people from all different backgrounds and problem-solve together during class group projects.”
Danielsson says that there are many people and experiences that emerge as significant when she looks back on her time at New York Tech, but perhaps one more that the rest.
“I met my husband, James Danielsson, at New York Tech during the first week of school in speech class,” she says. “We have now been married for seven years and have a son and two dogs.”