Hidden STEM was conceptualized and created by two faculty members of the Wake Forest University Engineering Department. The idea for the project came from a desire to instill a "sense of belonging" in STEM into underrepresented students.


Dr. Lauren Lowman and Dr. Erin Henslee lead the Hidden STEM initiative. Initial support for the project comes from the Kern Family Foundation's Engineering Unleashed Fellows program. As founding faculty members of the WFU Engineering Department, they have designed and implemented 12 new courses across all 4 years of the major curriculum. They have collectively secured over $2M in external funding to support both field-specific research and curriculum development work.

Dr. Lauren Lowman, Assistant Professor of Engineering, Wake Forest University

Dr. Lauren Lowman is a Founding Faculty member and an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Department at Wake Forest University and has served in this role since 2018. In this role, she has developed new interdisciplinary curriculum that bridges engineering fields and reflects the Wake Forest University motto of Pro Humanitate ("For Humanity"). Dr. Lowman received a Ph.D. and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a focus in Hydrology and Fluid Dynamics from Duke University, and a B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University. Her research investigates how extreme events affect overall ecosystem health, productivity, and sustainability using numerical models, geospatial data analysis, and field experiments. She is passionate about developing and sharing inclusive teaching practices in STEM fields and received a 2020 Engineering Unleashed Fellowship from the Kern Family Foundation to support inclusive problem-based learning curriculum development.

Dr. Erin Henslee, Assistant Professor of Engineering, Wake Forest University

Dr. Erin Henslee is a Founding Faculty and Assistant Professor of Engineering at Wake Forest University. Her research spans biomedical engineering, e-sports, and STEM education. Prior to joining Wake Forest she was a Researcher Development Officer at the University of Surrey where she supported Early Career Researchers as well as published in researcher support. She received her BS degrees in Engineering Science and Mechanics and Mathematics from Virginia Tech, her MS degree in Biomedical Engineering from the joint program between Virginia Tech and Wake Forest University, and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Surrey.  She has a graduate certificate in Teaching and Learning and is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy.  She is  a passionate teacher with 13 years of higher education teaching experience. She has received a 2020 Engineering Unleashed Fellowship from the Kern Family Foundation to support this work and is looking forward to an NSF funded project on developing inclusive Making/Makerspace curriculum. 

Meet the team

This project is supported by a number of faculty, student, and other collaborators.

Julia Powers, Resident Artist

Julia Powers is a student at Wake Forest University pursuing majors in Engineering and Studio Art. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Driven by creativity and a passion for research, she has contributed and worked on projects such as microalgal photosynthetic optimization for biofuels, radiofrequency ablation of nerve cells for pain management, and, currently, dielectrophoresis used to characterize cells. As for her artwork, two of her notable pieces reside in the downtown Wake Forest University building. One of which is an impressionist work of Henrietta Lacks and the other is of red blood cell cultures. She loves painting and drawing and hopes that her art can make a difference and an impact on people’s lives. 

Erin Stephens, Media Consultant

Erin Stephens is a communications specialist based in Charleston, South Carolina. For two and half years she developed integrated communications strategy, graphic designs, reported stories, and multimedia content as the Communications & Event Coordinator for Wake Forest University’s Office of Sustainability. Since then, she has helped launch the Let’s Talk About Water international film festival and short film competition at the Global Institute for Water Security. Erin received the 2018 Bynum G. Shaw Prize in Journalism from Wake Forest, where she graduated in the same year with a BA in Communication and minors in Journalism and Entrepreneurship. In all that she does, she leverages her editorial skillset with her passion for people to create meaningful spaces for connection — whether that be through storytelling or celebratory events.

Tiff Wei, Research Coordinator

Tiff Wei is a Civil Engineer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) office in Pittsboro, North Carolina. They grew up in Cary, North Carolina and graduated with a B.S.E. in Environmental Engineering with departmental distinction from Duke University in 2020. Tiff received the Eric I. Pas Award for the CEE senior with the most outstanding independent study project through their work with the Pratt Research Fellows program. Their previous research focused on analyzing the ecohydrological changes resulting from extreme events like wildfires and floods using remotely-sensed data and hydrological modeling in areas of complex terrain. Currently, they work with engineers, soil conservationists, and farmers to design feeding areas, stream crossings, animal waste storage and compost systems for industrial animal agriculture, as well as waterways to prevent erosion and flooding for crop production. Through an environmental justice lens, they hope to apply their research, engineering, and communication skills to develop community-based approaches for addressing pressing challenges like sustainable agriculture, food security, and water resource access.

Christina Michelis, Social Media Coordinator

Christina Michelis is a student at Wake Forest University with a major in Engineering and a double minor in Economics and Mathematics. She grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. Christina has worked on a variety of research projects such as prototyping a bioswale to mitigate the effects of E.coli and phosphorous in stormwater runoff and using Arduino Uno to test the relationships between the heart's rate and electrical activity when in a high-pressure situation. Christina is very excited and motivated to work with the HiddenStem team to research and promote minorities in the STEM field.

Kristen Hilal, Social Media Coordinator

Kristen is a sophomore at Wake Forest University pursuing a major in Engineering, and minors in Entrepreneurship and Mathematics. She is from Oakton, VA. Kristen has always been interested in STEM and sharing her passion with others. She does this through various activities on campus, such as The Society of Women Engineers, and Friends in STEM. Kristen is thrilled to be working with HiddenSTEM to promote inclusivity and divertsity to others.

Work with us

We are always seeking new collaborations to expand the impact of this initiative.