HSHP senior pursuing STEM studies

Sofia Peters, 17, a senior at the Harlingen School of Health Professions, is concerned about the ethics of medical and biological research, a field known as bioethics. (Courtesy photo)

HARLINGEN — It’s an ethical dilemma.

Sofia Peters, 17, is concerned about the ethics of medical and biological research, a field known as bioethics.

That may not be her ultimate profession, but …

“Bioethics is definitely something that is currently piquing my interest and I would be interested in possibly studying,” said Sofia, a senior at the Harlingen School of Health Professions.

Her immediate plans are to study biochemistry at the University of Dallas in Irving. She’s another intended result of the Harlingen school district’s ongoing initiative to bring more girls into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professions. However, she’s been headed in this direction her entire life.

“All my life I’ve been surrounded by STEM because my mother is a nurse and my father’s a physician,” she said. “As I became older, I also had a slight interest in the medical field which is why I chose to go to HSHP.”

At HSHP, she quickly fell in love with her biology class. It’s her favorite subject but, ironically, she doesn’t do as well in this area of study as she does in the artistic side of things like reading.

“I enjoy the challenge biology presents as compared to the arts which come more easily to me,” she said. “I enjoy things that will consistently challenge me to do better, and that is something that STEM does.”

More specifically, she enjoys finding answers to complex and puzzling problems.

“In AP biology last year, there are several cycles that are very complex, and they are not very easy to wrap your head around,” she said. “I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how these cycles work. And it wasn’t until after we covered the unit that I was eventually able to realize that, ‘Oh, this is the Krebs cycle, this is how it works, this is how it contributes to body systems.”

STEM is often seen as a male-dominated set of professions. In a previous article, Valeria Bautista Misakova encountered a great deal of resistance in engineering courses which were overwhelmingly male. The Harlingen High School South senior plans to study astrophysics at Notre Dame and she spoke about having to prove herself to her male peers in her Harlingen classes. She eventually overcame that hurdle, but Sofia has had a very different experience.

“I am very blessed about this,” she said. “At HSHP at least in my grade level, it’s predominantly female dominated. The majority of our class population is female. I would have to say maybe only 7 percent is male.”

Moving over to the right side of her brain, she enjoys singing, drawing, knitting and playing the piano.

And, she likes reading historical fiction.

“One of my favorite historical fiction books is ‘Between Shades of Gray’ by Ruta Sepetys,” she said. “I really enjoy this author because through her work she focuses on stories in historical time periods that are well known. But within those time periods she focuses on events that are not well-known.”

A perfect example of this is “Between Shades of Gray” which describes conditions in Russian gulags – prison camps – something of which many are familiar.

But within that historical context the book tells the story of several Lithuanians and other ethnic minorities persecuted by the Soviet Union.

Certainly that’s a hideous ethical dilemma in its own right, not in the field of medicine, but that of humanity.