Sizzling science

With a passion for science, Marrissa Raynesford lights a fire for STEM in younger students

Scientists are not afraid to ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them. Marrissa Raynesford, a senior in chemistry and Spanish from Hays, Kansas, embraces all aspects of being a scientist. And now she’s helping others discover their love for science by being involved with KAWSE (K-State Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering).

Four KAWSE programs work to increase the participation, retention and advancement of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

  • GROW is a hands-on program for middle school students.
  • EXCITE programming encourages high school students to experience college life and choose a STEM major.
  • Undergraduate and graduate students get professional development and networking opportunities through SUCCEED.
  • And postdoctoral students and faculty enhance their professional development through ADVANCE.

While aimed at girls and women, KAWSE programs are open to all genders.

Raynesford has hosted high school girls during EXCITE Shadow Days, facilitated STEM activities at the GROW Saturday Workshops, and mentored at the GROW/EXCITE Summer Workshop last summer. She’s also the president of KAWSE Ambassadors, who do local visits to schools to increase girls’ interest in STEM fields.

How did you discover your passion for science?

I went to a summer camp after my sophomore year in high school. It was a STEM camp where we studied forensic science. I learned about arson and how they figure out why things burn the way they do. It was absolutely the most fascinating thing to me!

From then on, I realized that chemistry is very cool. So I took chemistry the next year in school and had a great teacher. I realized science is my thing. It makes sense, and I never find myself getting bored. It’s wonderful!

Did you feel supported in your desire to pursue science as a career?

Yes! My high school chemistry teacher was an amazing woman, and she was a great role model. One of my favorite things about her class, besides learning about chemistry, was that she was patient and open. I felt comfortable asking questions, and she pushed us to learn more.

What’s your favorite aspect of being a KAWSE ambassador?

I like helping people find their own path to science. I especially like being a mentor at STEM camps and visiting schools. It’s great seeing kids get excited about all the stuff they can study. At a recent school visit, we did a candy DNA activity with the kids. I love giving them an opportunity to do more than what they cover in their classroom.

What advice do you give the students you mentor?

They should go after what they’re passionate about. And ask questions. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, reach out to someone because there’s always going to be people who want to help.

I also share my story with them. I grew up in a lower-income household. I’m fortunate to be at K-State with the help of scholarships and financial aid. I know I can succeed because people are supporting me. So I encourage them to stay determined. It’ll be worth it.

I’m here because I’m chasing my own passion for chemistry. So I hope that whatever that passion is for someone else, they just go for it.

Support KAWSE.

I am interested in these topics

Contact a gift officer