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March 7, 2011

Building Bridges for the Future Women in Science

Dr. Filomena Califano Founds Group to Encourage Sciences in High School Girls

“As a young girl in Italy, my mother and grandmother spent hours every Sunday trying to teach me how to crochet and cook lasagna,” said St. Francis College Chemistry and Physics Assistant Professor Filomena Califano. “But all I wanted to do was play with my brother’s toys, particularly assembling his robots or a bike.”

Dr. Califano kept on that path and shocked her family by studying and earning a degree in Chemical Engineering at University of Salerno, Italy. Her class started with only 11 women out of 120 and seven of those dropped out after the first year.

“It was a very difficult time for me. My professors didn’t think I could do the work and I certainly didn’t have the same confidence as the males in my classes,” said Dr. Califano. “But when I graduated, I knew I had made a great accomplishment and my family was very proud.”

Now Dr. Califano is working to help level the playing field for young women in Brooklyn. She has founded the Future Women In Science (FWIS) program and is recruiting female high school students from across the borough for a one-year program.

“Because of my own personal experience, I’ve made it my mission to help girls build confidence and get the support they need to pursue a career in science,” said Professor Califano who went on to earn her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at CUNY and conducted Post-Doctorate work in Molecular Biology at Princeton University.

FWIS begins March 26 with a six week program on Saturdays at St. Francis where students will engage in interactive experiments on topics like testing chemicals in lipstick, examining solids in cigarette smoke and learning about the chemistry of vitamin C in fruit juice.

Over the course of the program, students will also go on field trips and have the opportunity to meet with and apprentice under professionals in a variety of science and mathematics fields. At the end of the program, they will be able to share what they have learned at a career fair.

Space is limited but there are still slots available for high school students who want to join the program.

Please contact Dr. Filomena Califano at 718-489-5393 or [email protected] for more information and an application.

And as for all those lessons, Dr. Califano says, "I never did learn crochet, though I did learn how to cook."

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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