Sophia Litsey is an Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sophia, along with her teammates from Holmes Elementary School, came in first place at ExploraVision in 2002, and were honored at the ExploraVision Awards Weekend in Washington, DC for their project, “Bath Butler.”
Q: How did you first get involved in ExploraVision? What was your experience with the program?
A: You could say my involvement in ExploraVision started before I was a student! When my parents wanted to move into a better school district, a 1994 newspaper clipping about ExploraVision winners in San Diego helped seal the deal for my mother.
Several years later, Diana Celle, who had a record of winning ExploraVision for many years, tapped me to participate as one of three 3rd grade students competing on the “Bath Butler” team. We invented a safe, modern, and environmentally conscious bathtub. During the awards weekend in May 2002, I was chosen as the spokesperson for our team. I felt like such an adult giving a speech in front of so many adults and news cameras in Washington D.C. The whole experience built up a strong sense of self-confidence.
Caption: Sophia and her teammates presenting the “Bath Butler” on stage in Washington D.C. in 2002.
Q: Were you always interested in science? When did you realize it was your passion?
A: Throughout my time in school, I had always liked all subjects, but found myself gravitating towards subjects that were interesting and challenging to me. In high school, AP Bio was my hardest class, but I loved learning and studying it. Some of my passion for learning could’ve come from my father, who went to school for biology, and my mother who teaches elementary school students. When I took my Biology Psych class in college, I knew I was better prepared because of my high school classes and extra-curriculars; something I can’t say about all of my peers.
Q: What are the most important science or engineering skills high school students should develop as they prepare for science-focused college majors?
A: I strongly believe that critical thinking skills are the most important skills to have. Many students are good at taking tests and getting high GPAs, but don’t have the ability to think on their own. Students need to be able to think independently and not just memorize what’s given to them. Critical thinking will help them to stand out, win awards and achieve high-quality internships.
Caption: Sophia Litsey graduated from UCSB with degrees in Psychology and English in May 2015.
Q: Have you found there are more young women applying for science-focused majors at UCSB? What is one way UCSB helps support Women in STEM?
A: There’s a rising trend of attracting more and more females to our department. By phasing out the Bachelor of Arts degree and creating a Bachelor of Science, we’ll be interested in seeing how our undergraduate population changes.
Q: As someone who works in higher education, what are a few ways high school students can stand out to college admissions counselors?
A: Students that show they have been passionate in a particular subject area for years, take challenging classes in high school, and are motivated to succeed always stand out the most.
Being involved in ExploraVision is a great way to get noticed by colleges, because the program gives students the opportunity to brainstorm ideas they can’t normally do during school hours. ExploraVision even exposes young students to great mentors. This connects back to how important critical thinking skills are, and ExploraVision helps to teach students how to find answers to questions on their own. When I worked on my ExploraVision project with my father, he didn’t do it for me; I worked independently to find solutions.