Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Menoring

Prof. Maja Matarić is committed to mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers, half of whom should be women. She is also passionate about sharing her experiences and providing constructive advice to women and girls. There is no need for everyone to make the same mistakes and fight the same fights.

Prof. Matarić has received numerous awards for her mentorship, including the 2009 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), along with mentoring honors at USC. She was named one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Technology and one of the top 25 Women in Robotics. As part of her continuing efforts to promote diversity in engineering education and research, she chaired the Viterbi School of Engineering branch of the USC Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) Program, regularly serves as an CRA-W DREU mentor, and contributes to mentoring resources for girls and women.

This resource page is based on the mentoring questions Prof. Matarić commonly receives. It provides links to various interviews in which she addresses such questions, as well as a list of key points of advice.

  • Realize that most of what you read, watch, and hear is full of stereotypes. Do your own research, ideally by talking with people who are involved in STEM, and visit real work places (including research labs!), so you get the sense of what things are really like.
  • Realize that everything you see today is just what is going on today, but it will all change and grow and be developed in new directions and ways based on people who work in the field. So if you work in the field, you get to shape and change it. Don't turn away from something because you think it should be done differently; instead get involved and change it, do it your way.
  • Volunteer your time so you can learn the exciting new developments in the field(s) you are interested in, not because you will necessarily go on and do research in the future, but because you will learn so much more about the real challenges of any field and about what is really exciting than you could glean in a class, by reading, or from talking to people. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and earn reference letters, too.
  • Don't expect to be paid if you have no experience; look for scholarships and other ways of supporting your time. Building your future takes an investment of time.
  • No matter what you want to do and be, learn to program. Programming is behind almost everything in the 21st century. If you can program, you have a skill to contribute to any organization (including and research lab). If you are committed, you can learn to program for free on the web; see as a starting point. Knowing how to program makes you employable and marketable.
  • Male or female, remember that women make up half of the world and deserve equal pay and an equal place at every table. Behave accordingly.
  • Push.