Photo Credit: San Francisco 49ers

Hello, Science Cheerleader fans! As part of NFL Playoff season, we are interviewing some of the current professional cheerleaders who are cheering their teams in the playoffs while also pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. Read on to learn more about Elaine, a registered nurse and member of the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleaders squad.

What turned you on to STEM and when?
I’ve always been fascinated by science, but my interest in STEM sparked during the 6th grade when I had to create a physical model of an atomic structure—I thought it was the coolest project ever! Next to art, science has always been my favorite field  f study, and some of my fondest memories are of times when I was working in the lab with graduated cylinders and Bunsen burners.

Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
Because it’s so much fun! I absolutely love dancing and performing, and football is my number one favorite sport to watch. Being on the sidelines cheering on the 49ers has been my ultimate dream come true.

Photo Credit: San Francisco 49ers

How would you describe what you do?
I work as a Registered Nurse and I specialize in Gastroenterology. In this specialty, I spend most of my time taking care of people who need upper endoscopies and colonoscopies. Upper endoscopies and colonoscopies are procedures where a special camera is used to examine parts of the gastrointestinal tract (such as your esophagus, stomach, and colon). Sometimes I take care of patients before and after their procedures, and other times I assist the doctor during the procedure. The primary goals of our work are to prevent colon cancer, screen for other gastrointestinal disorders and diseases, and to provide treatments to help our patients feel better.

What does it mean for you to be practicing in STEM?
Health is essential to everyday living. As a nurse, I focus on improving the health of my community, so by practicing as a registered nurse, I help people so that they may live well and thrive.

How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
Cheerleaders have positive, “can-do” attitudes, and in healthcare, maintaining that kind of spirit makes any unsurmountable task feel doable. Therefore, applying that positive “can-do” attitude to my work as a nurse benefits me in my STEM career.

How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders?
When people are surprised to learn that I work as a registered nurse in addition to being a 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader, I feel motivated to brag about my other teammates who are scientists, engineers, educators, civil servants, etc. I am impressed by each and every one of my teammates, because in some way, they have all broken down negative stereotypes that society has associated with professional cheerleading.

Best cheerleading experience?
One of my “best cheerleading experiences” would have to be our Jr. Gold Rush cheerleading program. I loved getting to know the young girls who participated in our Jr. Gold Rush program. The girls reminded me of myself when I was their age, and my hope is that I left a lasting impression – one in which they would look to me and realize that they too could pursue both science AND professional cheerleading.

Best science/health-related experience?
It’s a wonderful feeling when my patients share their gratitude for the care that I provided. Being in the hospital and undergoing tests, procedures, or treatments is unlikely to be anybody’s idea of a “good time,” but I appreciate my patients for focusing on their health and taking the not-so-easy steps to improve their health. So when my patients share their gratitude for the care provided, it truly is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Study hard, have some fun, don’t sweat the small stuff, and above all: be your best self.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
I am a certified cardio kickboxing instructor. I started cardio kickboxing when I was in college, and then my passion grew so much that I decided to become an instructor. Group fitness classes are so much fun and a great way to get in shape.

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