Gold Award Girl Scout Angela Wilson, a professor at Michigan State University, grew up moving every couple of years as a child. She was grateful that Girl Scouts was a consistent thread, helping her make new friends whenever she started at a new school.
“My father was Air Force,” the life-long Girl Scout explains, “so I was a Girl Scout in many places.”
Angela started in Girl Scouts as a Brownie and was a member through her Ambassador year, earning one of the first Gold Awards in Alabama and then serving as an assistant troop leader after graduation.
Girl Scouts is also where she first saw role models of women in science.
“I knew I wanted to do something in math and science. I hopped around between chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics,” she explains. “But I didn’t know a single woman who was in the sciences. When I was a Cadette and a Senior, I would go to Girl Scouts early and look at the career cards.”
From Dreams to Reality: Career Cards, which was published in 1984 by Girl Scouts of the USA, was designed to mimic baseball cards, each showcasing a woman who had excelled in a certain field.
Today, Angela serves as president of the American Chemical Society and teaches physical, theoretical, and computational chemistry. As part of her work at Michigan State University, she leads a research team in East Lansing that works in quantum mechanics developing, for example, the next generation of computers.
“Everything we do is computational chemistry, so that provides us with many different types of problems,” she says, adding, “Some are practical and some are esoteric.”
When she looks back at how far she has come since browsing the career cards, she says she feels thankful for her trajectory and the support that made her career possible.
“I am grateful for the many mentors that I have had (all male) in my early career in chemistry and physics,” she says. “And I am thankful for seeing examples—through the career cards, and at my high school, where I did have three women math and science teachers who were some of the very best teachers I encountered in K–12. Their passion and enthusiasm were inspirational.”
Angela has worked to pay it forward and support the next generation of scientists as an advisor.
“Throughout my career, I have worked with high school girls and early-career scientists to help them develop a great mentor network, ensuring that from the beginning women are a part of their network.”
Photo credit: Lauren Esposito, Ph.D. © 2016 California Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.