Exploring STEM Careers: Naiyma Houston


As a high school student, Naiyma Houston recalls the conversations she had trying to decide on a career.

“My family was telling me if you like math and science, you might want to be an engineer. I didn’t know what an engineer was,” she said.

After looking into engineering, Houston started to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. However, by her third year at UCLA, she realized she disliked engineering courses but was “loving” biology classes. She heard a speaker from a biotech company and that prompted her to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology and molecular genetics.

She has worked as a research associate at the University of California, Irvine, a researcher and senior researcher for Amgen, and a project manager in clinical trial testing at Genzyme Genetics and Quest Diagnostics.

Houston is an advocate for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, particularly for women.

“Even though we have a downturn in the economy, there’s a number of STEM jobs out there unfilled. There’s a need. It’s definitely a lot easier to get a job when you have a STEM degree,” she said.

Houston has left biotechnology to create her own educational organization in Ventura, Upper Hand to College, which was created to encourage and inspire girls to seek an education in STEM and to provide tutoring.

“There’s a big need for our youth to seek a STEM education because we have such a shortage of people seeking STEM careers. There’s such a shortage of women seeking STEM careers,” Houston said.

STEM: for ever-growing minds