Courtney Noah on how it's time the STEM industry provides more opportunities for women

By Liza Laws

- Last updated on GMT

From ninth grade biology to the STEM industry - Courtney Noah's journey

Related tags STEM Biotechnology Cell culture Bacteria Dna

Courtney Noah works in scientific affairs at BioIVT and after an amazing biology teacher in grade nine gave her a passion for science, she then followed the same teacher through her education.

Having been originally interested in engineering, she soon realized that path was not the best for the set of skills she had before beginning her journey into life sciences. 

OSP: Could you give us an overview of your work?

My current role is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at BioIVT. I lead an amazing team that provides solutions for BioIVT’s clients and business partners. Specifically, we lead scientist-to-scientist discussions to better serve our clients’ research goals and needs. We also work closely with our internal colleagues to bring back insights from our discussions on scientific trends and information on how to enhance our products for various applications and research areas. It’s challenging and rewarding at the same time – which I love!

OSP: When did you realize you were interested in science - as a young child, teen, or older?

My interest in science started when I was in high school. I had an amazing biology teacher in ninth grade that inspired me and really showed the diversity in research going on within the STEM fields. We participated in regional science fairs and were challenged to think and ask questions beyond the textbook. This same teacher, who became a mentor to me, taught a senior high school class called Bioethics that showed me how philosophy has influenced how we approach research. This class helped me develop skills to defend an argument - an important skill for any scientist, particularly women in the field. This provided a great foundation for me throughout my career.

OSP: Could you describe your personal journey bringing us to where you are now?

In high school, I was originally interested in engineering. Quickly, I realized that this path was not the best for the set of skills I had or aligned with my expanding interests, and from there I explored food and life sciences which led me to where I am today. Traditionally, STEM careers are seen as a male-dominated workforce. I luckily went to an all-girls school, so I didn’t have to worry about there being any competition with the boys, leading me to have g the opportunity to really focus on what I was interested in. That said, I’ve had the pleasure of having both male and female mentors throughout my journey. Speaking from experience, I think it’s important have perspectives and insight from both – it's all about keeping those who will be honest with you and give beneficial advice.

OSP: What challenges did you face - as a woman or otherwise - along the way and what is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

The gender gap for STEM remains significant, with women making up only 28%​ of the STEM workforce - it's time the industry does its part to provide more opportunities for women. I’ve overcome many challenges throughout my journey but part of what made it so successful was the mentorship I’ve had along the way. To that end, there is a serious lack of education and dedicated career programs early on to encourage women to pursue STEM. By the time students reach college, women are significantly underrepresented in STEM majors.​ This number is concerningly low and could be increased across all areas of STEM if women had dedicated programs before and during college and throughout their careers that clearly outlined the benefits. To that point, what I've seen through my experience and others is that sometimes women carry self-doubt. The lesson learned here is to go into any situation with confidence. It’s so critical to lean in and push that voice in our heads away and go for what we believe we can do.

OSP: What ignites your passion in your current role?

First, is that I get the opportunity to work very closely with researchers. Hearing directly from them on their work at BioIVT has been rewarding to be a part in addition to witnessing exciting breakthroughs. For example, our involvement in the Covid-19 vaccines. This is something that I am so proud to say that I had a direct role with through my work at BioIVT in supplying samples that went into the vaccine discovery process. We helped the world have access to something that ensured safety and ultimately overcome the pandemic. Second, is the personal connection to the greater good of the job. I have loved ones who have been diagnosed with chronic illness and this has enhanced my dedication and made me more passionate about how quickly we need to move by gathering specimens to give researchers the tools they need to get the life changing drugs in the hands of the patient faster.

OSP: What is your current work ethos/style?

I think this goes back to mentorship. It’s important to work with others and build relationships both personally and professionally. I’ve learned that there will be disagreements and that’s okay and often welcomed as there’s never one perfect way to achieve a goal. If you’ve built a relationship, tough conversations can happen but in a productive way. Building a relationship of trust among the team and colleagues ultimately shows support for one another and that’s something I think about and implement into my work style daily.  

OSP: Could you share some advice for young women starting to develop an interest in science or wanting to pursue a career like yours?

I encourage women to feel empowered to try new areas of work and study instead of sticking with one focus that they think is right from the start. While no single career journey is the same, it’s important for women to think about a few things when considering a STEM career path. As I mentioned above, a big part of the journey is the mentorship and relationships built and developed through school and work. Thus, it is of even greater importance that women who are experienced in their STEM careers prioritize mentorship opportunities and raise their hand to guide the next generation. While the impact of female mentorship cannot be understated, it’s also important to note the benefits of insights from a diverse set of backgrounds (either male or female) that will set you up for success. Those that will push you to grow and develop by challenging you are ones that you should keep in your court. Another area that I continue to keep an eye on and encourage other women to do the same is around the Dream Gap and the continued support for women. I’m always looking to find new way to encourage and not put restrictions on girls and women so that they can truly see themselves in future roles and have the confidence go for it. 

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