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Women in Life Sciences Celebrate Their Journeys

It took Dr. Maurine Cobabe (BS '08) six years of higher education to meet a woman physician. “I couldn’t find a shadow of them; I couldn’t get their opinions on things [or] ask them questions,” she reflected. “We are living in a day of ever-increasing recognition that people need to see themselves reflected in their role models.”

A woman, Dr. Cobabe, smiles as she stands behind a wooden podium and speaks to a blurred out crowd in the foreground. She is wearing a green short sleeve button down, unbuttoned and showing a black scoop neck tank. She has light skin, brown hair clipped up in the back with some pieces falling in her face, a wide smile, and slightly downturned eyes.
Cobabe addresses the crowd of students.
Photo by Spencer Hall

In that spirit, more than two hundred students filled the Wilkinson Student Center Garden Court for the College of Life Science’s annual Women in Life Sciences dinner. Paired with industry and academic professionals representing all departments, students could ask their questions and receive advice on internships, careers, and work-life balance. Cobabe was the keynote speaker for the evening.

Cobabe, medical director and family physician at Intermountain Health, has used both mentors and God to guide her journey. Her mother pinpointed and encouraged her interest in medicine at twelve years old. When she got to BYU, she wanted to serve a mission, but received divine instruction to stay home and continue her studies. She was on a path no other woman she knew was walking. This was an early opportunity for her to learn that “you are entitled to receive revelation for yourself for the choices that you are making in your life,” she advised attendees. “Your faith and your diligence can lead you to learn things and be guided in ways you have never heard of before.”

Your faith and your diligence can lead you to learn things and be guided in ways you have never heard of before.
Dr. Maurine Cobabe

Forging Your Own Path
A woman in focus looks to the left with a slight smile. She has brown wavy hair four inches past her shoulders, an angular face, and light skin. She's wearing a brown and off-white windowpane shirt and a name tag that reads "Mackenzie Hansen." In the foreground out of focus is the back of another woman's head, with longer black hair pulled back with an orange hair tie. There's also a small bouquet out of focus with greenery and several pink flowers.
Photo by Spencer Hall

Throughout her life, Cobabe heard others pass judgment on her choices. Either she was too ambitious or too focused on her personal life, or she was too soft spoken or too abrasive. Some said that she was throwing away her potential. She learned to hear past those voices. Cobabe counseled students to “seek and heed the guidance of the Spirit. That will bring you lasting personal happiness. Because, once you have found that, then those [other] voices don’t matter.”

Ansima Mongane (PH ‘24), a student attendee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had to work hard to listen to her own voice. “I had to make up my own rules on how I’m going to live my own life,” she said. “While I still hold my culture in high respect, for me to live my dreams, I had to forge my own path outside of what my culture thought would be best. I’m so glad I have my family that supports me and sees the value I have in this world.”

I had to forge my own path outside of what my culture thought would be best.
Ansima Mongane

Inspiring Women in Science Are All Around You

In attendance as a professional mentor, Dr. Christine Griffiths (PhD ‘01) recalled her past experiences as a mentee. “I was already an athletic trainer, but I was undecided about what I was going to do,” Griffiths shared. After seeing BYU exercise science professor Dr. Earlene Durrant featured in the National Athletic Trainers Association News, where Durrant highlighted her faith alongside her work, Griffiths knew she needed to meet her. “She pretty much looked me in the eye and told me that I was going to come [to BYU] for a PhD,” she remembers. “She is a pioneer in every way [as] a woman in science and athletics.”

To learn more about various influential women in STEM, pick up new monthly pins at the Life Sciences' Dean's Office.

Heroines are not just found in-person. Widespread internet access means people can easily learn about modern and historical women in STEM changing the world. Cobabe also encouraged students to see themselves as future mentors. She emphasized, “People are out there seeking your wisdom. As they come to you, answer their questions and commiserate about the hard parts of their journey. Don't be afraid to share the hard parts of your journey. Share your wins and the things that got you through those hard parts of your journey. Live true to your beliefs, your purpose, and your revelation.”

A Bright Future Ahead
A woman with a name tag that reads "Sam" - the rest is cut off by a bouquet of greenery and red flowers - looks to the right with a smile. She's wearing a ribbed short sleeve white shirt and a black tank top over the top. She has rectangular, black-rimmed glasses, gold hoops, a gold necklace, dirty blonde hair pulled back in a bun, and light skin.
Photo by Spencer Hall

Cobabe concluded the evening with these rousing words: “I'm so proud of all of you for the choices that you've made throughout your life that have led you to being in this room tonight: to live by faith, to work hard, to study hard, to be brave, and to come into something that isn't [a] traditionally female-dominated field. I admire your determination to honor the gifts that our Heavenly Father has blessed you with... You are so lucky to have incredible faculty members and mentors here who bring you under their wings and foster your creativity, your passions, and your questions.”

Evenings such as these unite the incredible women of the College of Life Sciences through the bonds of shared experience and camaraderie. Students walked away inspired by their conversations and ready to tackle the next challenge ahead.

Seven tables full of women fill the entire frame, talking and laughing to each other. They have various hair styles, skin tones, and styles of clothes.
Photo by Spencer Hall