Skip to main content

Code, Communication, and Community: Caroline Huang's Fusion of STEM and Storytelling

Blog | December 8, 2023 | Share on:

Caroline Huang is taking the science world by storm. The first-year computer science student at the University of Waterloo already boasts a long list of accomplishments, including being the 2021 National Champion of Sanofi Biogenius Canada and a 2023 Schulich Leader. Huang has spoken at numerous conferences, competed in countless science fairs, and spent a year working with the Let’s Talk Science Communications team. Her time at Let’s Talk Science helped her see the importance of building strong communities within STEM, and the experience she gained is something she’s carrying with her into her university career. 

Huang has been surrounded by science for as long as she can remember. The daughter of two computer scientists, it was practically inevitable that she would find herself drawn to STEM. “I think for me, computer science was the most accessible form of STEM available,” recalls Huang. “My dad had access to his company learning portal, and I would use it to learn new things.” Huang believes that the exposure she gained from her parents, paired with the wealth of free resources available online, allowed her to really dive into the world of computer science and code. Throughout high school, she started competing in—and often winning—science fairs. Working under the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she did not have access to labs, but she did have access to a computer and a code editor. “All my projects were very interdisciplinary, but they all involved computer science because that is how I saw I could make an impact,” Huang says. “There’s just so much power and curiosity you can unleash from opening VS Code and running a script!” Huang’s project investigating slime mould decentralized intelligence for nerve regeneration helped her win Sanofi Biogenius Canada in 2021. 

Despite her success in high school competing at science fairs, it wasn’t always that way. “I actually did terribly during elementary school,” she recalls fondly. A self-described “jack of all trades, master of none” in high school, originally, Huang thought she might like to be a journalist. “The idea of storytelling for a living seemed very appealing to me,” says Huang. “I think one of the reasons I ended up choosing computer science is because I find you can story-tell through projects and code. There’s so much you can tell through mathematical modelling—as nerdy as that sounds.

Huang first got involved with Let’s Talk Science after hearing President Bonnie Schmidt speak at the 2021 Sanofi Biogenius Canada competition. “Bonnie was speaking online on a panel, and I loved what she was saying about youth engagement in STEM, science communication and how it’s important to listen to youth,” says Huang. “I was like: ‘Hey! I'm a youth—I have a youth voice in science! What if I get in contact with her?’ I had a lot of friends who always told me: 'If you want to meet with someone or talk to someone, don't be afraid to go for it!' So I reached out for a 15-minute coffee chat.” Shortly after her coffee chat with Let’s Talk Science’s President, Huang started volunteering with the organization the summer before her grade 12 year. “I spent two months volunteering with the communications team,” she says. “I was drafting social media posts, giving my ideas on different marketing plans, and learning more about communications.” Huang loved seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of communications and marketing and continued working part-time with Let’s Talk Science throughout her grade 12 year. She got to be involved in many projects in addition to social media management, including writing an article for the Globe in Mail and working on the Climate Action Lab

In celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Huang, as part of a partnership between Let’s Talk Science and The Globe and Mail, wrote the article: “The power and influence of women in STEM,” reflecting on her science journey. Huang felt that the article was a great way to reconnect with her passion for journalism. “The article was really special to me because it was a full circle moment like ‘Hey! I can do journalism, and I can be in STEM! They don’t have to be mutually exclusive,’” Huang says. “It was also a great way for me to reflect on some of the challenges of being a woman in STEM while also celebrating the day and the amazing mentors I’ve had.” Writing the article helped Huang realize there should not be such a gap between communications/the arts and science and reinvigorated her passion for building STEM communities.

Student in Lab

Moving forward, Huang wants to dedicate more of her time and effort to building strong STEM communities where everyone feels welcome. “I think community is an integral part of being a scientist and a researcher,” says Huang. “If you can’t communicate your information, what is it really doing but sitting on a digital shelf collecting digital dust.” She emphasizes the need for us to build diverse and representative communities and take concrete steps toward gender parity in STEM. “There’s a lot we need to accomplish in terms of equity and inclusivity, and it is great that we have so many policies and front-facing advertisement and outreach targeting EDI, but I feel a lot of it hasn’t been internalized. We need to break down the barriers of what a person in STEM looks like, especially to younger generations,” says Huang. “There’s so much potential for STEM programs to teach critical and curious mindsets while also breaking down barriers to education. That’s why programs like Let’s Talk Science are so important. Because they teach kids that scientists can look like anybody, even them!”