Symma Finn

Symma Finn

Symma Finn

Power Words

Where were you born? 

Baltimore, MD

What school did you attend? 

Adelphi University (BA), University of Miami (MA), University of Florida (PhD)

What gained your interest in the NIH? 

I have worked with scientists since 1984 as a research administrator and became interested in NIH when I began working with health scientists. And since I have degrees in both environmental and medical anthropology, NIEHS seemed an ideal place to work.

How can you help improve the composition of the STEM education pipeline for Native American students? 

I can help by mentoring students who contact me and to reaching out when I am at scientific meetings or meetings held at universities to younger attendees.

What is your most important accomplishment to date?  

The organization of a trans-federal conference on the value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge for the Environmental Health Sciences and Biomedical Research that was held in December 2015. This meeting involved NIEHS and NIMHD, Indian Health Service, Smithsonian Institution, CDC-ATSDR and representatives of 7 tribal communities.

How did you choose your career?  

I was working for a dean of a marine and atmospheric science school and was recruited as a masters student into one of the departments at that school to study coastal/environmental anthropology. I had studied anthropology as an undergraduate and leaped at the chance to continue my education in that field.

What are ways to provide better STEM education for Native American students?  

Via their peers. There are many Native American scholars with positions in universities or who teach at the high school or undergraduate level. It is these individuals who are best suited to stimulate interest in STEM topics among NA students.

How can Tribal colleges build stronger partnerships with institutions like NIH? 

By serving as the lead organization and applying for grants, by sending representatives to attend conferences and workshops that NIH organizes and to presenting at such meetings, by participating in webinars organized by various Institutes and programs at NIH, by visiting the campus in Bethesda MD or in Research Triangle Park NC and by contact with the Native American points of contact at NIH, all of whom would be happy to help.

What does success mean to you?  

Helping others reach their full potential and being able to do the work they feel passionate about.