Women who are unlocking the power of biotechnology: 5 stories of women in STEM who are powering Benchling’s mission
March is Women’s History Month, and this March we are excited to share the stories of several Benchlings and their experiences studying and working across STEM. Though their stories, paths, and lived experiences are unique, they share much in common like a life-long love of learning, a passion to lift up those around them, and a plan to make space for those that will come after them.
From the cutting-edge of engineering to the forefront of the life sciences, these women have spent their lives in pursuit of knowledge in the service of transforming the world around them—to make systems stronger, humanity healthier, and the base of the known world wider. And they have come from across STEM to be the engine of Benchling’s mission to unlock the power of biotechnology.
Elena Rubio de la Torre Gil
Support Team Leader
Elena Rubio de la Torre Gil is a Support Team Leader within Benchling’s Customer Experience Division. Elena has had a life-long love of biology and human health—since she was growing up and all throughout her career. While in academia, Elena studied neurodegenerative disease and communication between neurons in her PhD and postdoc, and then became a field application scientist in the life sciences industry, specializing in biotech instrumentation. She was drawn to Benchling by the challenge of learning about other technologies that support science, customers’ scientific use cases, and the Benchling product itself, which she wished she’d had as a tool during her time in academia.
Early on in her career, Elena didn’t see a lot of other people with similar experiences to her within her field, and wishes she’d had more opportunities to learn from mentors with shared experience, especially when it came to work/life balance and maternity. Later on, during her postdoc, she gained training in leadership, mentoring, and alternative career paths. Now, she is a strong advocate for those she sees walking in her former shoes, offering mentorship to those she works with. Elena hopes to see STEM become a more inclusive field that supports women’s growth and professional development.
Charlotte-Alyss Weissglass is a Software Engineer on the Customer Engineering team at Benchling. Within STEM, Charlotte-Alyss loves to learn about theoretical math, astrophysics, and 3D modeling, and she pursued a dual degree in computer science and studio art. She also has a passion for teaching, and relishes every opportunity to get people excited by complex topics, including when she’s working with Benchling customers. Charlotte-Alyss made her way to Benchling when she was exploring a career in 3D printing and a company developing 3D printed organs sparked her interest in the life sciences space.
As Charlotte-Alyss has worked to progress as an engineer, artist, and teacher, she has also had to overcome challenges throughout her career. Early on in her academics, she was often asked if she was “in the right room” in her computer science classes. In academia and the corporate world, she’s had to push against the societal conception of a software engineer—which doesn’t leave a lot of room for queerness or femininity. As Charlotte-Alyss puts it, “There aren’t a lot of folks in this industry with purple hair… and while there is a stereotype that ‘all trans women are engineers,’ there really aren’t many of us.”
Charlotte-Alyss challenges these stereotypes by excelling and advocating within her field. Looking to the future, Charlotte-Alyss believes that new, groundbreaking developments in biotechnology have the capability to redefine every aspect of our lives, the same way the printing press and industrialization irrevocably changed the world. She hopes that as biotech advances, it continues to inspire a passion for learning, become more inclusive and representative, and truly serve all people.
Rhonda Silva is an Account Executive on the Midmarket Sales team at Benchling. Rhonda has had a dual love of math and medicine ever since she was young, and she has applied that passion to many different experiences throughout her academic and professional career. Rhonda received her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, and first worked in the field by writing MATLAB scripts to streamline analyses in an addiction genetics lab. She eventually went on to work at a CRO, first in preclinical imaging workflow automation, and later with enterprise account management on the sales team, where she could use her scientific background and build meaningful relationships with customers. These experiences ultimately led her to Benchling.
Throughout her education and career, Rhonda’s biggest inspiration has been her mom. Rhonda shared that her mom grew up in a rural town in Mexico and didn’t have much access to educational opportunities. And so, she has always been one of Rhonda’s biggest advocates and instilled a deep value and love for learning in Rhonda early on in life. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self and anyone interested in pursuing a career in STEM, Rhonda said, “To remember that you’ve earned your spot in the room… Insecurity will prevent you from growing as a professional and a person. Ask questions when you need to, learn from others, and the confidence will come.”
Throughout her career, Rhonda has loved being involved in groups that have connected her to her peers and people she admires within STEM, including the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in college and Fluoresce, the affinity group for women and women-aligned employees at Benchling. Rhonda is also excited to grow as a mentor and get involved with her alma mater’s program for first-generation college students, where she’d like to support young people with a shared experience.
Head of Security Engineering & Enterprise Security
Rachel Black is the Head of Security Engineering & Enterprise Security at Benchling. Rachel grew up with a love for STEM, inspired in her formative years by at-home science experiments that her mother facilitated, who herself was a marine biologist and infectious disease researcher. She has been passionate about technology from a young age and began her career in security immediately after receiving her bachelor’s degree in computer science. Rachel is really drawn to security engineering because it’s all about building more resilient systems. The way she sees it, she gets to view systems from a “breaker” perspective, as opposed to that of a builder, to find a system’s vulnerabilities and ultimately fortify them.
Rachel sees the world of computer science as one that is always evolving and progressing, requiring continuous learning to stay at the forefront of the field. As the head of her department at Benchling and mentor to those on her team, continuous learning is extremely important to her. She strongly encourages the engineers on her team to continue to expand their knowledge and hone their skills with as many resources as they can take advantage of.
Rachel believes that STEM is becoming less and less esoteric and more integrated into modern, everyday life. As such, she hopes that STEM education and professions continue to become more accessible to everyone, with lower barriers to entry to anyone interested in the field.
Software Engineering Manager
Neena Parikh is a Software Engineering Manager on Benchling’s Machine Learning & Insights team. Neena always saw herself pursuing a career in STEM, and she became interested in applying computer science to solve multidisciplinary, non-software problems when pursuing her undergraduate degree. Excited by the intersection of biology and software and the potential impact it could have on the world, Neena came to Benchling to have a big impact on a rapidly growing team with a strong culture that resonated with her.
For Neena, her biggest supporters have always been her family. In particular, her older brother who is also a software engineer has been an incredible champion and influence on Neena’s growth. This support bolstered Neena earlier on in her career, when she didn’t see a lot of representation within her field. She says, “As we know, women have always been a minority in STEM, especially in tech.” More recently, though, she’s also recognized a stronger emphasis on DEI within the tech world as it continues to evolve.
In thinking about her younger self and young people interested in STEM, Neena’s biggest piece of advice is to, “Be open to exploring new ideas!” Though she’d never considered a career in engineering until college, she is thrilled she gave it a chance because it ultimately led her to a career where she gets to combine many of her interests.
Benchling’s mission to unlock the power of biotechnology wouldn’t be feasible without the support of incredible scientists and engineers like the women featured here. If you’d like to learn more about employees at Benchling, check out our employee spotlights under Inside Benchling. If you’re interested in joining these women in applying science and technology to solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems, explore our career opportunities.