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Natalee Castillo : “Just because the journey isn’t easy doesn’t mean you don’t belong there.&#

Hello everyone, my name is Natalee Castillo and I am a Research Engineer at an orthopedic medical device company. I have been in this role for over a year. I am working on a project which aims at developing a novel surface topography for orthopedic implants to reduce implant infection. It may sound a little bit complicated, but ultimately, what I develop contributes to decreasing orthopedic infection rates which benefits patients as well as helps alleviate the antibiotic resistance crisis. In an even more concrete way, since I am on the R&D side of the medical device space of my company, I work on the development of new technologies that will eventually improve patients’ health.

By the way, fortunately, my job was not really affected by the Covid-19 crisis and I still went to work every day, I still wear a mask every day. My office sent as many people remote as possible to help with social distancing measures.

Just because the journey isn’t easy doesn’t mean you don’t belong there.

In terms of my educational path, I got a B.S. in Bioengineering from Lehigh University. My focus was on biomechanics and biomaterials. I chose Biomedical Engineering because I love math and science and I have always been interested in health care. While growing up, math was something I really excelled in. If I had not went into this field, I would have probably chosen some other health care field or have gone to medical school. I am passionate about contributing to meaningful work in the healthcare space that will ultimately benefit people’s health. As a first-generation college graduate, which means that I am the first one in my family to attend college, and a woman of color in engineering, it is also important for me to create more representation in that specific industry.

One of the hardest parts of my journey was navigating being a first-generation college student. Everything was very trial and error and I did not have a lot of guidance during my educational journey.I also worked multiple jobs and dealt with health problems while being a full-time student, so it was definitely a rough journey for me sometimes. Yet, all the obstacles that I faced in college have made my degree much more meaningful and it is one of my proudest accomplishments. The result was worth the struggle and I want to use my story to encourage other women of colour and/or first-generations, to consider careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

No one has to look a certain way or build robots in their free time to study engineering! Some of us like to binge Netflix and shop at HomeGoods and that is perfectly okay! 😉

I remember being one of the only girls in my classes during undergrad. To be honest, I was mostly surrounded by white men. Engineering is still very male-dominated and as a very stereotypical ‘girly-girl’ I often still feel out of place. However, I constantly remind myself that I worked hard to get the same credentials as many people in the industry and I do not need to change who I am or the way I present myself to prove my value to others. I try to let my work speak for itself because that is ultimately what matters. I have never been blatantly questioned about my place in this industry as a woman, moreover as a woman of color, but I have experienced various microaggressions that have made me feel not good enough, based on my appearance and age. I practice a lot of positive affirmations to remind myself that I do belong in STEM and the Instagram Women in STEM community really helps remind me of that!

Besides work, I really enjoy spending time doing things that make me feel happy and relaxed. I love to binge Netflix and Hulu with my dog/baby Sophie. 😉I am currently obsessed with Desperate Housewives and The Vampire Diaries. I also love to shop and am crazy about fashion and home decor. I love makeup too, so I like to play around with new products! I also find time to work on my Instagram page (@babeofstem) and website (

I started Babes of STEM because I think there is a big issue of representation in the STEM industry and a lack of information available to the public. Before coming to college, I had no idea what engineering was. I thought it was only about constructing buildings and robots! I had literally no idea there were multiple types of engineering. Even when I switched my major to Engineering, I wasn’t completely sure what I was signing up for. I think if I had known a female engineer or seen someone like me portrayed in a STEM role in the media for example, it would have exposed me sooner. I viewed engineering as something you needed to be born with, like being naturally gifted at building robots. It seems really intimidating until you realize anyone can do it, with enough determination and studying!

‘I dream it, I work hard I grind ’til I own it’

Formation” by Beyonce is one of my favorite empowering female anthems to blast😊

Whenever I feel discouraged, I try to remind myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to and that I worked hard to get where I am! I always tell myself that I deserve all the opportunities that are coming along my way.

So, if you want to go into STEM, just do it! It is certainly tough at times, but if it’s truly what you want and if you are passionate about it, then it is worth it. The amount of times I almost dropped out of engineering is honestly too many to count, but I stuck with it and remained determined. Girl, if I did it, so can you! Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Find yourself a mentor/ role model and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Written by Pilar

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