Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hastings' enthusiam for STEM is contagious

As a younger student, Nikki Hastings said she always enjoyed math and science but couldn’t quite connect the dots on how her love for those subjects might translate into a career.

That changed after attending a month-long summer camp that showed students hands-on what they could do with their skills.

“It just takes that one experience to get someone fired up to make them understand,” Hastings said. For today’s students and parents, “I would encourage parents to have their students experience a lot of different things.”

Hastings has led the development of programs to introduce local students to science, technology, engineering and math careers.

For her ongoing efforts, the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council recently honored her with the Community Award. The award recognizes a firm or individual who demonstrates a commitment to improving the quality of life in Central Virginia through community involvement.

Rimm-Kauffman Group and The Gaines Group also were nominated for the award.

Today, Hastings is vice president of laboratory operations at HemoShear, a local biotech firm that develops technology that’s been adopted by major pharmaceutical companies to help them improve the safety and effectiveness of medicines.

Hastings is also chairwoman of VABio’s Charlottesville Regional Council. She also has led efforts to develop local programs to expose students to career possibilities in science, math, engineering and technology. Hastings also serves on the advisory committee for the newly created health and medical sciences academy at Monticello High School, according to a biography provided by the CBIC.

“She’s one of those rare people who has both the energy and the enthusiasm and the devotion to actually make a difference in some kids,” said Gary Henry, chairman of the CBIC board. Henry said the role that people like Hastings play in attracting and retaining student interest in scientific and technical careers shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Nikki’s an inspiration to all of us,” Tracey Danner, the CBIC’s interim executive director, said by email. “Her passion and commitment to help grow and strengthen the base of technology opportunities in the Charlottesville area — for both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce — is making a real difference.”

“She’s in what I consider to be one of our most important societal endeavors,” Henry added. “Providing some feedback to [children] that says, a [science, technology, engineering or math] career is hugely positive and something that’s valuable ... to everyone.”

A native of upstate New York, Hastings came to Charlottesville in 2004 to pursue her doctorate at the University of Virginia.

When she’s not working or promoting the possibilities of science to students, Hastings has played a key role in supporting the local MS Society’s annual Bike MS event.

“I do tend to take on a lot, but when I see what I’ve done in the community it’s really energizing to me in other parts of my life at work,” Hastings said. “I’m always looking for something to be active in,” she said. “There are so many great things going on here.”


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