Written by Samantha Nower

Esha Khullar has a very specific job. She’s a scientist at Corteva Agriscience, and she’s currently heading up a team dedicated to improving microbial strains through targeted rational engineering. Her official title is Strain Engineering Leader for Crop Protection. But if you ask Esha, the core of her job is simple: she wants to help people with science.

“Growing up I wanted to have a career where I could create impact and help solve world challenges,” she says. “I love having the opportunity to tackle challenging problems, innovate with the best scientists in the world, and see the impact we make to the lives of our customers.”

Esha has been a volunteer with Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis for three years. She’s been a part of Young Women in Leadership (YWIL), Girls Inc. Day, and toolkit assembly for outreach programs. Her favorite program has always been Eureka!, Girls Inc.’s 5-year STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program.

Esha wants girls to know that STEM is not as intimidating as it seems. That’s why she’s passionate about Eureka! and Corteva’s partnership with the program.

Her favorite Girls Inc. STEM memory was volunteering at Girls Inc. Day 2018, hosted by Corteva. During that partnership day, girls from all over the community participated in an activity involving extracting DNA from strawberries.

“It was so fulfilling to see their excitement when they realized they could take the DNA they extracted home with them,” she says.

Esha says she discovered Girls Inc. through Corteva’s Women’s Inclusion Network, which is partnered with Corteva’s Community Investment and Science Outreach Team. The two teams’ goals are to partner and volunteer with local organizations to help empower women, model female representation in STEM, and work to improve the Indianapolis community.

“Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis was a great organization for us to do all of the above,” she says.

Esha says she’s passionate about volunteering with Girls Inc. because she’s passionate about the mission. “I now have the chance to give back to the community,” she says. “What drew me to Girls Inc. was their mission and programming – giving the confidence and power for young girls to fearlessly own who they are versus trying to fit a stereotype.”

One of the ways Esha wants to promote confidence in girls is by encouraging them to go into STEM fields. For Esha, STEM has been a way for her to tackle difficult problems and improve the lives of others.

“I believe women can achieve anything they aspire to, and STEM careers should not be perceived as daunting,” she says. “Women bring with them new ways of thinking, unique experiences and differing perspectives. More women in STEM careers will lead to richer discoveries and faster progress in the field.”

She says that anyone who’s thinking about volunteering with Girls Inc. should absolutely do it. “Girls Inc. provides us with the ability to help shape the lives and careers of so many young girls,” she says. “I have also enjoyed working with the Girls Inc. staff who are very helpful, supportive and make it so easy to volunteer.”

Esha adds that she knows what makes her strong, smart and bold. “The challenges I overcome and the support system I have make me strong, knowing that I have so much more to learn and contribute make me smart, and asking ‘why not’ more than I should makes me bold.”

About the author:

Samantha Nower was a previous intern at Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis. She is currently a senior at Ball State University, majoring in journalism. Samantha serves as Editor-in-Chief of Ball Bearings Magazine.