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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Miss Beaver County Advocates For Science In STEM Ambassadors Program

Miss Beaver County Advocates For Science In STEM Ambassadors Program

If you saw Sarah Kanell in her ball gown, tiara and sash, you might never guess she loves science and works in a research center at the College of Pharmacy.

Kanell, a freshman in pre-nursing, is a certified pharmacy technician and advocate for women in science, hoping to break the stereotype of the typical scientist everyone imagines. She’s also the current Miss Beaver County, having won the title at the last pageant.

In high school, Kanell enjoyed learning about science but felt no science teacher had a passion for teaching the subject. She sought out information on her own, online and at the library, eventually learning about the U’s ACCESS program for freshmen women in science and mathematics. She applied and participated in the program last summer.

After she was named Miss Beaver in July, she chose science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and advocacy as her platform, volunteering at STEM events to teach elementary students and their parents about career possibilities in those fields.

Now Kanell is a member of the STEM Ambassadors Program — which started recently out of the STEM Action Center. In this role, she recruits U students to promote science, technology, engineering and math to teachers, students and industries around the state.

“They were so excited that I wanted to not just help with their program, but also take it back to the schools in my county where it’s not reached as much as it is up here in the bigger cities and bigger schools,” Kanell said.

She has since taken her knowledge back to her hometown, where she said many parents are not aware of STEM careers for their children. Kanell has spoken at county events, judged science fairs, tabled at robotics competitions and participated in other volunteer activities. She currently works with elementary school teachers in Beaver to help them earn funding for science equipment and materials.

As Miss Beaver, she said it has been fun to “not just wear a crown and put on make-up” but to volunteer and be a role model for young women who do not think they have the ability to go into STEM fields.

This is what makes Kanell a good advocate to different kinds of women, said Rosemary Gray, associate professor of biology and director of the ACCESS program.

“It’s important for young women to see that you can have both parts of that life,” Gray said. “You can be a scientist and a beauty pageant winner.”

There is still a great disparity of women in science fields and Gray said they have to get the interest of girls at a young age so they know it is a real possibility. Gray has had other beauty pageant winners participate in the ACCESS program in the past.

With the ACCESS, Kanell will take part in a research symposium to present her pharmacotherapy research at the end of the year. Finishing her research, continuing STEM outreach and maintaining a full class schedule makes it difficult for her to fit in time to practice violin for the talent portion of the Miss Utah competition in June.

“I’m making it through one thing at a time,” she said with a smile.

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