Elizabeth Griggs spent part of her summer studying math and science while she lived in a dorm room on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. She has always wanted a STEM career; and, after doing research on the computer she built herself and hearing from industry professionals, she has narrowed down her field of interest and decided she wants to be a herpetologist.
Elizabeth, only 11 years old, currently attends the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School and is proud of her Yup’ik and Alutiiq heritage. As an ANSEP student, she loves being able to focus on jumpstarting her STEM career while also celebrating her cultural background. Her older brother, Peter Joseph Griggs, spent three years with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program and recommended she apply to Middle School Academy.
“I was nervous at first because I didn’t know anyone when I started Middle School Academy. But I made friends immediately, and the college dorm felt like home,” said Elizabeth. “My favorite part was the computer build. Not only did we get to put it together ourselves, we got to take it home and now I can use it to study for school.”
At Middle School Academy, Elizabeth learned about engineering through hands-on activities like building towers and bridges. The students practiced flying drones, and learned about the different types of unmanned aerial vehicles and what they are used for.
“It was really cool to see how engineering affects us more than we realize. Someone built the bridges and roads we drive on, someone designed the houses we live in. ANSEP helped make science seem very real in my everyday life,” said Elizabeth.
Throughout the component ANSEP Youth Peer Mentors, typically ANSEP University Success students, shared their accomplishments to motivate the younger students and highlight how the program can help them achieve their STEM goals. After learning about many different uses for math and science, Elizabeth said two people were particularly inspiring, her Youth Peer Mentor Derek Sevcik and cultural anthropologist Joshua Ream, Ph.D., of the Department of Interior Office of Subsistence Management. Dr. Ream shared stories about his STEM career experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and talked about the many different career paths available, including herpetology.
“Before ANSEP, I’d never heard of a herpetologist, and now I want to become one,” said Elizabeth. “A herpetologist is a type of zoologist who specifically studies amphibians and reptiles. I can’t imagine a more interesting STEM career!”
When she isn’t busy studying, Elizabeth enjoys playing with her baby brother, watching Jurassic Park and learning more about the world around her.