Valerie Alexander; @Team6875
What is your dream job after you graduate?
I would eventually like to study astrophysics and my dream job is to be an astrophysicist for the Canadian Space Agency.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment to date!
Getting my local city council [in Essex] to ban exotic animal shows and traveling animal circuses for the well-being and protection of the animals.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten in relation to following your dreams?
That I shouldn’t go into astrophysics because doing both science and math would be too hard for me, and that I should stick to the arts instead.
What would you say has been the most significant challenge in life you’ve had to face to date? How did you overcome it (or learn to live with it)?
I was painfully shy and anxious for most of my life. I was actually able to overcome this issue thanks to my robotics team—they make me feel valued and comfortable, but also push me out of my comfort zone so I can experience new things.
Who are your three favourite people to follow on social media? What do you love about them?
My three favourite people to follow on social media would have to be NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and my robotics team, the Amazon Warriors. I like to follow NASA and the CSA because they post about things that are important to me and pique my interest, and give me the opportunity to learn new things all the time. I follow my team mostly for support and to remind me of what we have accomplished.
When you enter the workforce in your chosen field, do you expect to be paid equally to male counterparts with similar education and experience? Why or why not?
I think that I will be paid equal [to my male counterparts], but I don’t expect my experience in this field to be comfortable or for it to be easy—astrophysics is a very male-dominated field. But no matter what, it is my dream and I am willing to make sacrifices to achieve it.
What’s the number one biggest issue facing young women your age in Canada right now?
The lack of female role models. I don’t believe that there is a shortage of interest in STEM among young girls, but I believe that they are turned away by the fact that there is a serious shortage of women to look up to who can say they made it without being told that they weren’t good enough.
What’s your best piece of advice for other young women who want to make a difference in the world?
There is always going to be someone rooting for you. Whether you know it or not, someone, somewhere, wants you to succeed—and eventually you will. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.