Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.
“What inspires you?”
A question like that brings to mind clichés more fitting at a beauty pageant. Yet when you ask a STEM girl, the responses might well cause you to straighten up and pay attention.
The Huffington Post posed this question to the applicants of our Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. More than 1,000 young women responded to our call-outs last December, and amid all the different names, ages, locations, career motivations and educational backgrounds, we were blown away by the deep purpose each applicant found in her studies and future career.
So in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child and the quest to empower young women everywhere, we've compiled some of our favorite responses to this question in the following list. Hopefully they inspire you like they've inspired us.
What inspires you? What inspires your pursuit of STEM?
"Seeing my work impact a person's life, no matter how small the action. I know my thoughts can transform into action." - Phyllis, 21, Aspiring pharmacist
"I find the the research towards finding an AIDS vaccine fascinating." - Taryn, 14, Aspiring Orthopaedic/Neurological surgeon
"My whole life, all I ever dreamed about when growing up is to help somebody in a powerful way. I want to make lives better or help move society forward to a future with less misunderstandings and ignorance. Women have been doing this throughout history, and if I could do something just half as good as them, I would be more than satisfied." - Florencia, 20, Interested in a career in health physics
"It is interesting to learn about how everything comes together to create life and how life is sustained through these processes." - Danielle, 19, Interested in research and lab work
"Showing a sixth grade girl how to use a dissecting microscope for the first time. Watching her get more excited about wearing gloves and goggles than whatever is in the dish." - Jane, 21, Aspiring Genetics researcher
"I work at the local museum as a volunteer and the curator there is one of my biggest inspirations." - Molly Anne, 15 Aspiring computer programmer
"I'm inspired by the fact that we know so much more about the world today than we did even 10 years ago, but there's still so much we don't know, or have the wrong idea about." - Annika, 14, Aspiring scientist
"My parents inspire me to do my best because they are immigrants from Vietnam. They both came from poverty and lived in a time period when their government was in turmoil. They have come from poverty and had big dreams. They both loved school, but never had the chance to go to school. Even though their lives weren't perfect they still worked so hard to give me the life that I have today. I am extremely grateful for all of my blessings and privileges. My parents didn't have all the advantages that I have. I want to take every opportunity to the best of my abilities." - Yvonne, 15, Interested in forensic science
"I like to think that I am surrounded by inspiration wherever I go. But, I am mostly inspired by nature, and the people surrounding me. I love the beauty, complexity, and balance of our natural systems, and I think that we must put greater value on their protection." - Abigail, 20, Aspiring academic researcher
"Being able to prove myself in the world as being an intelligent and capable woman is one of the many things that inspires me to work in the biology fields. The other thing that inspires me to be an intelligent and powerful woman is being able to follow in the footsteps of my mother, an electrical engineer for General Electric Aviation, and my sister, an electrical engineering student at Northeastern College." - Emily, 14, Aspiring geneticist
"I like things that are bizarre, which is why I love microbiology. For every bacteria we know incredibly well, there's at least another thousand we know nothing about." - Sarah, 19, Aspiring microbiologist
"I am genuinely inspired by the power of the human mind and spirit. Throughout my undergraduate career I have learned that the human mind has more power than we truly understand." - Kerry, 20, Aspiring medical anthropologist
"I love to see the happy faces on patients face when they are released from the hospital. I want to take part in helping cure people from sicknesses. Whenever I get tired and frustrated in school, I would often remind myself that many people depend on doctors and that my hard work will eventually pay off when I medically assist a person. - Qi Lin, 16, Aspiring medical student
"Humanity inspires me, because despite the hardships people undergo, and the enormous injustices we as a society face, people continue to press on, to progress and innovate and keep moving forward. It's incredible." - Anwar, 16, Aspring Nanochemist
"How amazing science is. In molecular biology, it's amazing that the very reason we breathe is because electrons from breaking sugars down need to go somewhere. The details and how they work together is amazing!" - Tika, 20, Interested in the medical applications of biotechnology research
"Ever since I was little simply being in nature has inspired a curiosity and wonder in me to figure out how the world works." - Maggie, 21, Interested in a career in Ornithology or biological research
"Before I began studying science, I was under the impression that our fate was immutable, determined by our genetic makeup the way the Fates of Greek mythology preordained the length of a person’s life. Listening my professors, I was fascinated to learn that we could influence the interactions within cells, circumventing harmful mutations. I also learned that there are 5,000 diseases with known molecular causes, yet there are only 500 with available treatments. The idea that we can change the future by interacting with cellular processes allures and inspires me. In the future, I hope to contribute meaningfully to the field of molecular oncology." - Lauren, 17 Aspiring oncologist
"The complexity, symmetry, and beauty of people, animals, plants, and nature in general inspire me." - Merve, 18, Aspiring medical laboratory scientist
"The possibility of where life can take me inspires me." - Lindsay, 16, Aspiring marine biologist, neuroscientist, or physician
"During my summer internship, my lab partner had recently earned her masters degree; in fact, this was her first job. I asked, 'Why did you want to work in this lab? Did you always want to study crops?' She immediately replied that hybrid research was the perfect combination of her passions: biology and technology. 'But do you really feel like you're helping the world?' I asked, intrigued. She twirled her thick black hair for a moment in contemplation, then stared unblinkingly back at me. 'Yes. I am absolutely sure our work is feeding people, in India and all over the world.' She smiled, handed me some rice DNA and carried on with her work, but I was never the same. I never perceived lab work as a true tool to end hunger, but Sheetal's faith in herself and her science inspired me." - Caitlyn, 18, Aspiring genetic researcher
"Having my mother and grandmother fight breast and lung cancer respectively, I know how hard these diseases can hit a family. I hope to work in a medical environment where I can help others by contributing to the medical industry." - Marea 21, Aspiring cell biologist
"The sensation of beginning to understand something which cannot be comprehended, like the size of the universe." - Paula, 19, Biology researcher and science writer