My name is Evann Hilt, and I am currently getting my PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Loyola University Chicago. I have always had a passion for science because my mom was a nurse. I remember deciding as a middle school student that I wanted a career in some type of scientific field. Over the years, the exact scientific career path I wanted to take changed – and sometimes at an inconvenient time, such as right before clicking the submit button on my applications for medical school! My mind changed so many times because I was experiencing different career paths by getting involved in college. I first wanted to be a pharmacist but after doing a medical mission trip in Nicaragua, I saw that I had more fun helping diagnose patients than just dispensing medication. Next, I wanted to be a medical doctor but after doing a research internship in Houston, Texas, I fell in love with research and being able to take a question and perform experiments to answer that question. I think I would have benefited greatly from attending outreach programs like Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) because I would have learned about these options ahead of time and would have saved myself a lot of unwanted stress.
During my graduate career, I have made it a mission of mine to participate in outreach programs that specifically talk with the younger generation of students to show them what it is like to be a scientist. Last year, I volunteered as a buddy at EYH for the first time. I took five girls around to three workshops, which taught them about different careers in STEM. I had the best time seeing the girls light up and get excited about learning computer coding or seeing how bacteria survive different environments. I am happy that I was there to help foster their interests in STEM and to help encourage these girls to pursue their passions and make them into careers. I know that if I had a program like EYH when I was younger, I would not have experienced as many difficulties deciding that being a professional scientist was the career for me.