GREENSBORO, N.C. — "Always willing to help students learn," "awesome," and "teaches well" is how students at Guilford Technical Community College describe Associate Physics Professor Jyoti Nair.
While growing up in India, real-life science geniuses inspired Nair to go to school for Physics.
"There is a famous woman mathematician in India called Shakuntala Devi and she was known for the mathematics," Nair said. "She could do anything within a second."
Nair also had an 'out of this world' woman who inspired her more.
"When I went to the college, I obviously I heard about Kalpana Chawla the first Indian woman who went to space," Nair said.
Nair wanted to be up next. She joined the Indian Space Research Organization, the national space agency of India. It is similar to NASA in America.
"We had to travel a lot when you do a research and you have to [vaccinate] yourself," Nair said. "So, due to my personal constraint, I had to resign from that. My daughter was just born and I couldn't go there. I had to take care of her."
Nair now joins Anne Simpson as the only two full-time Physics instructors at GTCC. In 2017, Simpson became the only female department chair at the college, when she was named the Chair for Engineering, Astronomy, and Physics.
"Unfortunately there are not enough females in certain positions," Simpson said.
Simpson says men don't face the same problems women do in the science field.
"I think naturally for men, you've got those built-in mentorships," Simpson said. "You've got the all-boy network and you see lots and lots of people who look like you, so I think for females at times, unfortunately, we don't always support each other."
Nair adds the gender equality gap in STEM keeps growing because mothers can't do it all.
"Always... women have to sacrifice more, especially once they start a family," Nair said.
But, Simpson says the Physics classroom is a space of support no matter the gender or who's teaching. She says all students should walk away knowing: "Yes, I do fit in here," Simpson said." Yes, I should be here. I belong here. I can do this."