CuSTEMized Blog

Welcome to our blog for CuSTEMized! CuSTEMized is a not-for-profit initiative that provides personalized motivational books to encourage girls in STEM. Follow this blog for words from our founder and director, Jean Fan, as she shares her thoughts about women in STEM and provides updates on CuSTEMized.

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NEW! My Scientific Name

Sunday November 13, 2016

The CuSTEMized team is so excited to share with you all our latest personalized storybook My Scientific Name. Learn about what scientific careers the letters of your name represents with this beautiful and educational storybook. Each page is developed in collaboration with real women or minority scientists in that field. Learn more about all these different scientific careers and the women and minority scientists working in them by creating your own copy of My Scientific Name at


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Special thanks to everyone involved in making this possible including:

Illustrated by Jean Fan and Kimberlyn Bailey
Written by Jean Fan, Aeja Pinto, and all contributing scientists acknowledged below
Developers: Jean Fan and Kamil Slowikowski
Outreach coordinator: Sayda Zelaya

Theron Carmichael – Astronomer
Nicole Black – Bioengineer
Oana Livia Apostu – Computer Programmer
Michka Sharpe – Developmental Biologist
Ruoran Li – Epidemiologist
Jenny Gruber – Flight Dynamics Officer
Tamara Pico – Geologist
Rutendo Gambe – Hematologist
Kelly Moynihan – Immune Oncologist
Steph Guerra – Journalist
Kim Schenkeveld – Kinesiologist
Heather Mumford – Library Scientist
Jennifer Dailey – Materials Scientist
Sonia Kim – Neuroscientist
Elise Wilkes – Oceanographer
Moiya McTier – Planetary Scientist
Jing Shi – Quantum Physicist
K. Renee Horton – Rocket Scientist
Stephanie Hicks – Statistician
Gaye Angela Ohanesian – Transmission Engineer
Natasha Ginzburg – Urologist
Rebecca Davenport – Veterinarian
Jean Fan – Web Developer
Constance (Connie) Jeffrey – X-ray Crystallographer
Subhalaxmi Nambi – Yeast Biologist
Lauren Koenig – Zoologist

And many more volunteers, friends, and family for their support

Made possible through funding and support from readers like you.

CuSTEMized hosted another fun-filled hands-on STEM enrichment learning event, this time in collaboration with the Newton Free Library.


We moved our bodies to feel our hearts. Then we engineered hoop gliders to move as far as possible. And we saw how light moves using polarizers. Of course, we had lots of fun coloring!


We also heard from 3 female scientist guest speakers! We learned about our hearts from Susan Hannes of Harvard Medical School. We learned about what cells eat from Dr. Allison Lau of MIT. And we learned about 3D printing from Nicole Black of the Wyss Institute. Check out our Facebook for more photos.

Special thanks to organizers Sayda Zelaya and our wonderful collaborators at the Newton Free Library. And thanks to everyone for coming and learning!


Christmas break of 2015. I was at home enjoying a little break from school. With this little free time, I decided to start learning Laravel, a PHP development framework. Why? Well, the CuSTEMized website at the time was built on PHP with a bunch of poorly organized and hacked together scripts. It worked. But I knew it could be better. In order to make it better, we needed to build on what others have already created. We needed to move towards using a framework. We needed to learn something new.

None of us knew how to use Laravel. Heck. None of us had even worked with a development framework before. In the beginning, the learning curve was pretty high. We faced moments of doubt when we had to ask ourselves: was this worth it? If things aren’t broken why fix it? What if we were to have spent all this time learning Laravel and then not even use it for the website anyway? But we knew just because it isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it can’t be better. And even if we didn’t end up using Laravel, we would still have learned something. So those reasons were good enough to keep pushing forward.

Now, almost a year later, our volunteer development team is proud to finally present the next version of the CuSTEMized website built on Laravel. 2016-10-12 10-32-36.png

It’s fun to look back and reflect on how much we didn’t know before. We moved to and set up a new server. We had to learn about security. We had to establish launch protocols. We didn’t know how to do any of this. But  we needed to figure it out and so we did.

I’m so proud of us.



We are so excited that our Little Book of Big Dreams won the prestigious MOONBEAM SPIRIT AWARDS gold medal in the category of EXPLORATION. As the organizers state, “Creating books that inspire our children to read, to learn, and to dream is an extremely important task, and these awards were conceived to reward those efforts. Each year’s entries are judged by expert panels of youth educators, librarians, booksellers, and book reviewers of all ages.” We are honored to be a part of the competition and congrats to all the other winners!


First and foremost, I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support on our recent Kickstarter campaign! We grew a lot as a team in putting together this campaign, met many wonderful scientists along the way, and even had a few articles written about us (wow!).

But unfortunately, because we have failed to reach our $10,000 goal, My Colorful Future will not be funded. As with failed Kickstarter campaigns, no backers will be charged for their pledges and we will not be fulfilling any pledge prizes.

As scientists, we are familiar with failure. Experiments fail. Grants get triaged. Papers get rejected. We understand that failure is always an option. But quitting is not! When faced with failure, we adjust parameters, we rewrite and reorganize, we improve, and we find alternate ways to succeed. What we lack in funding, we will make up for in brain power.

Moving forward

I still believe that it’s so important for kids, in particular girls and minorities, to have visible and relatable role models. At, we encourage kids to (literally!) see themselves in STEM by providing personalized storybooks that depict them in different STEM careers. But we also want kids to see that there really are people just like them currently in these STEM fields! Therefore, we are still working with current women and minority scientists in the field to teach kids about a wide range of scientific careers!

Moiya McTier is a planetary scientist working with us to teach kids about planetary science. Do you know what a planetary scientist does? Check out her page to find out!


If you are or know of a scientist interested in being featured, please contact for more information on how you can get involved. Follow cuSTEMized on Facebook to learn more about different scientific careers and for updates on when these pages will be available for personalization to feature your child.