Reflections from an Online Mentor

Contributed by Jonelle Basso

While working at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Marine Science, I vividly remember when professor, Mya Breitbart, sent an email to the college list serve concerning the opportunities that FabFems had to offer. She encouraged persons to mentor other budding women in science, and I decided to go for it. Now, several years later, I am pursuing my PhD in Microbiology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and am still an active part of the FabFems family.Jonelle in the Lab

Within the last year, I have been approached by persons around the country to be an online mentor to their students. It is an honor to do it, and I wish that I had such an opportunity while growing up.  One such occasion was this past August with The Project Scientist team at the Johnson and Wales University, Charlotte Academy, and the brilliant program coordinator, Rebecca Sims, reached out to me through FabFems. Google Hangouts is an incredible tool, and I was able to connect with them this way. The girls’ age range was 4-12 years old, and one thing that interested them was how long it took me to get to where I was. Of course, I mentioned while going through it all, it weirdly doesn’t seem to take as long. One young lady did not have a question but was thrilled to tell me that she has connections with Trinidad and Jamaica! Being from Trinidad and Tobago, and having studied in Jamaica, it was exciting to be able to connect with her on a personal level, which in itself may spark her interest to pursue science in the future.Jonelle Online Mentor

I also had the honor of sharing my story with students at the Challenger Learning Center in central Illinois. Susan Evans reached out to me through FabFebs to also conduct online mentoring with her students. Susan was absolutely wonderful to work with, and I got some great questions from the students. These young men and women (around the 8th grade) listened attentively and asked questions such as who inspired me to be where I am today, and around what age I thought I wanted to do science. In thinking about it, I had several teachers throughout my academic career who were amazing, but one mathematics teacher stood out, around the time I was 11 years old. I also vividly remember being 5 years old, and being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a nurse to help people. Of course, I am not in the medical field now, but I believe I’ve always had a love for science, and I love that I can inspire young students to pursue the sciences through opportunities such as FabFems connections. I also write a science blog every week that is geared towards reaching students, especially where I am not physically present, perhaps providing a channel for students to love microbiology as much as I do (see link:

As I reflect on these experiences, I’d like to offer sincerest thanks, firstly to Dr. Mya Breitbart for making me aware of FabFems, and for being an inspirational woman in science. I’m also greatly touched by the amazing work that women such as Rebecca and Susan are doing, and they deserve due recognition. I also thank all the students who have listened to my story over the years. Without any part of this network, none of this would be possible, and I thank you all for making this meaningful and invaluable.

FabFems LogoTo learn more about Jonelle visit her FabFems profile. FabFems are enthusiastic about the science and technology work they do and want to inspire a future generation of FabFems. Search the Role Model Directory to find FabFems in your area.

Image 2. Courtesy Susan Evans. Challenger Learning Center in central Illinois