Maddie Hayes 

MS in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Sciences 

Hometown: Rochester, NY

What has been your journey of becoming a scientist? 

“I kind of just got lucky as an undergrad. There was an internship listing in the spatial analysis lab at Vermont and the internship title was like “drone pilot intern” or something really catchy like that and I thought “oh my gosh that sounds really cool” I had never even flown a drone for fun before, but I thought I’m gonna apply and just see what happens. I got the internship and I just fell in love with flying drones for environmental science, the GIS (geographic information systems) aspect of it, and the remote sensing aspect of it. I declared my minor as geospatial technologies, and I worked at the lab there for about a year and a half, and then I moved to a remote sensing lab at Duke University and continued flying drones. Over there I was working more so on research projects, and as I was going through them, I suddenly realized that I had a lot of tools in my toolkit per se, but there was still so much for me to learn and I felt like the only way to do that was to go back to school. In particular, BU, where has some of the best people in this field in the country and even the world, and so I saw this as a great opportunity to learn as much as I possibly could in a year at BU.” 

What has your experience as a woman in science been like? What advice would you give to other women and girls who are interested in science and want to enter the field? 

When I started– well, I would say the environmental sciences field is more evenly split than other STEM fields for sure– but when I started to enter the drone world and go more so on the technology route, that, of course, is where you see that split start to happen. But I was very lucky when I first started, I had a woman mentor, and she kind of paved the way for me and we worked very closely together. At that point, I didn’t even really notice that there was a disparity between men and women in that field because I had an incredible mentor and she did a really good job of not really letting it get to her or showing that side of things. And then I would say it’s become most obvious to me now in grad school, just taking these very heavily science-based courses, I do notice that they’re not as evenly split, particularly in the computer science department. Also working in research at Duke, all of the people I was working with identified as men and so that was tough at times. But, again I had a pretty good mentor at Duke as well. He was really aware of it and he made a really big effort to make sure that my voice was heard and he would let me lead the way on research projects which I realize is not very typical, especially with an advisor like that, typically they don’t let students really lead the way at all, and then particularly women sometimes. So I have a feeling it’s going to change once I really start to enter the professional world, but I would say I definitely have been pretty lucky so far with my mentors.” 

My main advice would be to find a mentor. I would say that that is probably one of the most important things that you can do for yourself, even if you’re not specifically working in a lab, or you’re not specifically in graduate school doing research. If you can just find a mentor in general that will really really help you out. Of course, the leaky pipeline is still very much a real thing and they have done the research and they’ve actually been able to identify the main cause of the leaky pipeline in a lot of STEM fields is that women don’t have access to proper mentoring and so they start to feel discouraged and they don’t really have someone to stick up for them when they need it or give them advice, and so on. So I would say the most important thing that you can do is to find somebody that you can look up to and this can be pretty much anybody in the world. I feel like a lot of the times women in these fields, they know, of course, that there is a disparity and so they are more than happy to help out people who are just starting out in those fields.” 


What advice would you give to your younger self? 

“I would say that I wish that I could be more confident in myself as I entered this world of technology. And even now in grad school, when I was picking out my classes, I was really scared to take a strictly based computer science class. I felt like I am not going to be good enough for that class, and I won’t have anybody in this class to help guide me through it, I have a feeling that the class going to be mostly men, which can sometimes be a scary thought of course. And just in general; sharing my research, or doing interviews like this or with other news sources for various news sources here and there, sometimes I feel like I’m not very confident in myself and my abilities and what I’ve done so far, so I wish that I could have tried to foster that a little better as I started in this field and as I move forward in this field.”

What is your hope for the future? 

“My experience has mainly been in the drone industry, which is still a very up and coming industry. And if you look at the numbers now, less than 1% of the CEOs of these drone companies are women… It actually might be around 5% now… as this technology is evolving, it is so crucial to so many industries: the environmental world, construction, engineering, architecture. You can use drones for pretty much anything, so I would love to see more women in leadership roles in these companies because it’s still young enough as an industry that we can kind of get in there now and make these changes now before that systematic bias really starts to take hold.” 

Maddie doing fieldwork