Mimi Loser, a science teacher at St. Mary’s Academy in Southwest Portland, grew up in a family of female scientists, so it wasn’t until she arrived at college to pursue a chemistry degree that she realized women didn’t often have the same roles in science as men.

Today, studies show that women continue to be under-represented across all STEM fields, including science.

At St. Mary’s Academy, teachers such as Loser are working hard to change that fact.

Longtime St. Mary’s science teacher and alumna Maureen “Moe” Daschel, class of ’77, states simply that “girls need to see themselves.” 

That objective helped pave the way for the creation of Scientific Research Methods, a class started by Daschel nearly 25 years ago.

In SRM, students spend the first semester learning about scientific research, visiting labs and meeting female scientists in the Portland community. In the second semester, students are placed in the science community with a female mentor to work on a specific project. Partner organizations include Oregon Health and Science University and the University of Portland.

“It’s a true interdisciplinary, real-world science course,” said Daschel. “Our students have the opportunity to be mentored by others and get real visibility to women in science careers.”

Another way St. Mary’s has tried to inspire girls is through T.I.E.S. (Teaching, Integrating and Exploring Science).

 The program was started by St. Mary’s students more than 20 years ago and has a similar goal as SRM — to mentor the girls who will come after.

The program meets twice a month and investigates real-world science scenarios.

The St. Mary’s science program is flourishing outside of the classroom as well. The SMA Beta Blues Robotics Team is the only all-girls robotics team in Oregon and competes at the highest level in the state. St. Mary’s Science Olympiad team was crowned state champions in 2019. 

According to the National Association of Girls’ Schools, girls’ school graduates are six times more likely to consider majoring in math, science and technology and three times more likely to consider engineering careers compared to girls who attend coed schools.

“Through our commitment to the Catholic values of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, we take seriously our responsibility to the full development of the human person,” said Daschel. “We aren’t just teaching the curriculum and how to think critically, we are showing our young women what a future in STEM can look like.”