Sarah Bolmer

Atherton, CA, US
Field of Work 
Biotechnology
Company 
DuPont Industrial Biosciences
Job Title or "Student" 
Chemical Engineer
Education 
Stanford University
Degree 
Chemical Engineering
Education Level 
Masters
Profile Biography 
Have fun, play smart!

Before every big test, athletic competition, or next big adventure my dad would always say those words to me. When I was little they were just the thing that was shouted after me as I ran off to my next activity. But as I've grown up I've realized how much of my life is about those words. Having fun and playing smart is how I ended up in science and engineering, and its why I love what I do so much!

Growing up I like so many different parts of school - reading, English, math, history, government. But science always stood out to me because it was empowering. Even in grade school I could see that smart people coming together to work in science produced ideas, machines, and products that could save lives and change the world. My mother is a scientist in biotechnology. So growing up I had a firsthand glimpse at smart, powerful women in STEM. She has always been my hero, and I got to see her go off to work each day to develop cutting edge medicine. That cemented my love for science (gotta start strong with the S in STEM)!

Ironically, what got me into engineering was indecision. I loved every part of science. I couldn't choose just one. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, you name it, I wanted to do it. I took every science and math class I could get my hands on in high school. So when I tried to decide what I wanted to study I was torn in many directions. I had never really considered engineering. Engineering to me was building bridges or designing engines - very cool - but it didn't have all the things I was interested in (and I had built some really bad Popsicle and toothpick bridges in my day). So I spoke with an amazing college counselor. I told her I like every part of science, I didn't think I could pick just one, and asked if that was possible? She said "Yes! Take a closer look at engineering!" So I did - and I loved what I saw. Engineering brings together varied disciplines with analytical skills to solve problems and have an impact.

I went off to Stanford University knowing I wanted to study engineering, but undecided on what discipline. I attended a Chemical Engineering talk in the first few weeks of school. I wanted to get an idea of what chemical engineering was, what problems chemical engineers worked on, and what kind of impact they made. The professor greeted the room, and then the next thing out of his mouth was “if you’re here to change the world, you’ve picked the right classroom, and you’ve picked the right major. Chemical Engineers are going to shape the world.” I’ve been hooked ever since. Chemical Engineering didn’t make me pick just one discipline of science, but rather embraced and interconnected them all; making every facet more powerful than it was individually.

I finished my Bachelors and followed it with a Masters in Chemical Engineering with a focus in biotechnology. After my Masters I became a Chemical Engineer in biotech at DuPont Industrial Biosciences. That is a whole mouthful of words that boil down to using biology to make cool products that are used in a huge range of applications and have an impact on our everyday lives. We make enzymes - or biologic catalysts - that go into everything from your energy efficient laundry detergent to the alternative biofuels in your car to the food on your table. It's an exciting job that lets me combine all my favorite parts of science.

Outside of work I love to play sports – particularly basketball and rowing. I rowed crew in college and now coach a youth basketball team. I love to cook (and eat) and even use fermentation science to make my own cheese. I’m a big fan of any and all Stanford sports – especially football and basketball (and of course rowing). In my free time I spend lots of time with my family and friends. We go on many adventures around California, but at the end of the day there is almost nothing I like more than spending time with my family at home.

To any girls out there reading this and who are interested in science, technology, engineering, math, or any combination of the 4, I say follow your passion and know your ideas are needed. Any STEM field is, most fundamentally, focused on innovation and change. And where you have innovation and change, there must be diversity of thought. So we don’t just want girls, we desperately need them to solve the problems of the future. Without women in science, technology, engineering and math, we will have half the new ideas, half the problem solving minds, and leave a blind spot in our solutions that is 3.5 billion people wide. So ladies, go with your gut and trust your ideas. And as always Have fun! Play Smart!
Interests 
Reading, Sports
Race & Ethnicity 
White
Level of Participation 
After-school visit, Field trip participation, Job shadow, Online role model
My Experience 
I am a new Role Model.
Availability 
Evenings, Weekends
Resources 
Career exploration activities, Field trip hosting, Fun demonstrations or materials, Hands-on activities for students, Identifying other role models
Program Affiliation 
None

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