Monthly Archives

July 2012

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Jen Bailey, Aerospace Engineer, Federal Aviation Administration

Jen Bailey

Jen Bailey

Aerospace Engineer
Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Commercial Space Transportation



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My parents definitely encouraged me to go into engineering. I like to say that three fourths of my parents are engineers. (I have a stepmom and a stepdad too.) So engineering is in my blood.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
In my previous job, I was a risk analyst for the launches out of Cape Canaveral. We looked at the possibility of rockets breaking up and raining debris onto the ground, blowing out windows from the explosion, and creating a toxic cloud. Events like that rarely happen, but our team made sure we were prepared. We made decisions to move groups of people or close certain parts of the Cape to mitigate the risk. In the history of the US space program, no one that wasn’t involved with the launch has been hurt by a rocket. It’s nice to know that I had a small hand in keeping that record clean.

Role models/heroes:
I look up to all the women who enter jobs where they are the minority (from engineers to construction workers to pastors). We need to look out for each other and support each other. My mom is a big role model for me. She worked as an industrial engineer for Harley-Davidson for more than 20 years.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM, because there are always new challenges and things to learn. I love sitting around a conference table and thinking, “We’re talking about launching a rocket into space, and this is our job!” And honestly, I love having the means to take care of my family. We can have a comfortable lifestyle, go on nice vacations, eat dinner out, and spoil my daughter a little.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Search out people that are interested in the same things as you. It’s much easier now with social media to stay connected to people with your same interests. But also, look for colleges that have a focus in the area you are interested in. I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. I liked that it was a small school devoted to all things air and space. The professors stopped class so we could go outside to watch space shuttle launches. Walking around campus, everyone would stop and look up if we heard a plane going overhead. The connections I made there are still strong. And your professional network is one of the most important parts of your career.

Favorite website or app: I check Twitter and Facebook first thing everyday. I follow all my fellow space tweeps (spacetweepsociety.org).

Twitter: @astronut22

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Cristy Gelling, Cell Biologist, Univ. of Pittsburgh

Cristy Gelling

Cristy Gelling

Cell biologist
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
In high school I read a book called “The Panda’s Thumb” by Stephen Jay Gould and another one called “The Making of Memory” by Steven Rose. The ideas in those books changed my life. Actually, I wrote a blog post about it.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Right now I’m doing some pretty weird science on a common genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). People with this disorder usually develop lung problems, but about 15% of them end up with liver diseases, like hepatitis. We are trying to understand what factors predispose those particular people to liver disease.

The weird part is how I’m doing that. I’m using bakers’ yeast cells (yes, the kind you use to bake bread) as a stand-in for the liver cells of people with AATD. I have genetically engineered the yeast cells so that they make the mutated protein that causes AATD, just like a liver cell, and then I study what happens to the yeast. Understanding how the mutated protein affects yeast cells can help us understand what happens in liver cells. This works because there are certain activities that all cells do in a similar way, like make new proteins and dispose of old proteins, so how those activities are affected by the mutated protein will be similar in both yeast and liver cells.

But yeast are much easier to do experiments on than liver cells are; they are super fast to grow and it’s easy to make changes to yeast genes. By using this unusual approach, I can gather lots of data very quickly and then test some of the most interesting ideas with more complicated experiments in liver cells. The bakers’ yeast act as a kind of rapid testing ground for different hypotheses about this devastating disorder.

Role models/heroes:
My intellectual hero has always been Charles Darwin, but my role models have been the people I have met and worked with. Like my high school maths teacher, Ms Maseladahni, who showed me that not being very good at maths didn’t mean I couldn’t love the intellectual challenge. Or my PhD supervisor, who placed a high value on curiosity and creativity in science.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love making discoveries about the world. There’s not much that can compare to the feeling of generating knowledge! The other thing I love is all the creative and passionate people that you get to work with.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Think about your job prospects but think most carefully about your interests and your personality. Whether you choose software engineering or scuba diving, you are going to end up knowing more about your specialty than you can possibly imagine right now. So make sure you choose something that you want to be an expert on.

Favorite website or app: http://scienceseeker.org/ lets me navigate the thousands of science blogs out there. If you think you don’t look like a scientist, try http://lookslikescience.tumblr.com/

Twitter: @cristygelling

Web: theblobologist.wordpress.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Katherine J. Mack, Theoretical astrophysics researcher

KatieMack

Katherine J. Mack

Theoretical astrophysics researcher

Institute of Astronomy / Kavli Institute for Cosmology, University of Cambridge

 

 



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I’ve wanted to be a scientist for as long as I can remember. I have always been very analytical and interested in science and math. As a kid, I was always taking things apart and trying to figure out how everything worked. After going through all the electronics in our house, I got more ambitious and discovered cosmology. I decided I wanted to answer the biggest questions there are.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
They’re all cool projects! I guess I’m a traitor to cosmology if I say this, but one of the coolest things I’ve ever been involved in was actually a particle physics experiment called K2K. It was a long-baseline neutrino-oscillation experiment, in which an accelerator facility in Japan called KEK sent a beam of neutrinos to the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector, to see if any of the neutrinos would disappear en route (by changing into less-detectable kinds of neutrinos).

The project I did at KEK involved building things with power tools, which is always fun, but when I visited Super-Kamiokande I got to actually go inside the detector, which was absolutely amazing. Usually you can’t go inside because it has to stay very clean, but they were doing an upgrade of the whole detector at that time. It’s a 40-meter tall cylinder filled with ultra-pure water, with light-detectors called photomultiplier tubes lining the inside surface. To replace old tubes, we put on clean-suits and went around the detector in a little inflatable boat. (Search the web for pictures of Super-Kamiokande and you’ll see what this looks like.) It was pretty incredible.

Role models and heroes:
Currently I guess I’d say Neil deGrasse Tyson, because he has an amazing ability to get people excited about astrophysics. When I was young, my hero was Stephen Hawking — I think I wrote in my college application essays that I wanted his job. These days, I see him around pretty regularly at talks and conferences. I still don’t have his job, but it’s kind of amazing to be working in the same university and roughly the same field.

I didn’t have a lot of female role models when I was young, and I didn’t really feel I needed  them. But I was probably quite influenced by my mother — she was working on her PhD in nursing when I was growing up, and she did original research as part of that. She got me interested in science fiction and took me to planetarium shows, star parties, and public lectures on physics and cosmology, and she was always encouraging of my interest in becoming a cosmologist. I also remember being a big fan of Kate Hutton, a Caltech seismologist who would show up on TV for interviews every time there was an earthquake. I think I liked her because she seemed a bit tomboyish like me and was always clearly the smartest person in the room.

It was nice to see a female scientist on TV who was (at least locally) well known and obviously greatly respected.

Why do you loving working in STEM?
As I mentioned above, the big questions are what really fascinate me. Things like, how did the universe begin, and how will it end? How did galaxies form? What determines the laws of physics as we experience them? I don’t expect to find the answers to any of those questions directly, but I love that they’re all deeply relevant to my work, and that I get to think about things that are really right on the edge of human knowledge. I also love that I get to choose my own projects and set my own scientific goals. I’ve been very fortunate in that, actually, since I’ve been able to obtain independent research fellowships — I don’t really have a direct supervisor who tells me what to work on. (A lot of astrophysicists are tied by their funding to a particular project or person.) There are downsides to that, of course — I have to be very self-motivated and I have to try to make sure I’m keeping up with things that will make an impact in my field — but it’s great to have so much intellectual freedom. If something sounds particularly interesting or challenging to me, I can just go and investigate it, and figuring it out becomes my job.

Being a theorist, specifically, also has its perks, in that my work isn’t tied to a particular location or piece of equipment. I travel a lot, visiting collaborators and going to conferences, and I can work anywhere. I think I do some of my best work in coffeehouses. My job can also be surprisingly social sometimes. As a theorist, a lot of what I do involves coming up with new ideas and thinking about things creatively, as well as swapping expertise with people in related fields. So going to conferences and to other institutions and talking with people is an essential part of my job, and I find that kind of real-time idea-sharing incredibly stimulating.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Learn as much math as you can. Math is awesome, and the more you practice with it the better and faster you get. It’s just like learning a language, in that sense. Having easy fluency with mathematical concepts will help a lot in your education and your work, in whatever area of STEM you choose to go into.

Also: Don’t get discouraged if you have to work really hard. Don’t think that your chosen subject should necessarily be something that comes easily to you. It always takes hard work to become an expert and to learn a new skill — if you love this kind of thinking, the hard work will become a pleasure, and that moment of truly understanding something fundamental about how the universe works makes it all worthwhile. Challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to try things just because you’re not sure you can do them.

And if you want to go into research, start now. There are lots of established programs that you can apply to for early research experience, but you can also take a more informal approach. I got my first research opportunity — the one that eventually ended up sending me to Japan — just by going up to a physics professor and asking him if he could use a research assistant. I was a young high school student at the time, and I hadn’t even taken a physics course yet, but I was enthusiastic, and that was the only really important thing. If you’re not at university yet, find out what the faculty at your local university are working on and see if any of them could use a volunteer.

I’m not talking about a full-time job — usually you can manage to do a couple hours here and there after school. If you are in college, you should be able to find opportunities through your university. But don’t be afraid to approach people and say you find their work fascinating and you’d like to learn from them. As a researcher myself, I know that I love talking to young people who show an interest in my subject. Most academics are just happy someone cares about what they do, and they’ll be glad to talk with you about how you might be able to get involved.

Favorite website or app:
I’ve gotten all obsessed with Twitter these days. I follow a bunch of scientists and science journalists, and it’s kind of overwhelming how many fascinating things are going on in research at any given time. It’s like opening up a door through which you can watch science as it’s happening all over the world. And if people are talking about something particularly interesting, you can tweet to them and they’ll (often) answer your questions! It’s mind-boggling. And also highly — dangerously — addictive. Use with caution.

Twitter: @AstroKatie

Site: www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~mack/

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Louise Brown, Research Fellow in the Polymer Composites Research Group

Brown

Louise Brown

Research Fellow in the Polymer Composites Research Group
Dept. of Mechanical, Materials & Manufacturing Engineering
University of Nottingham



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Maths and science were always my favourite subjects at school. My dad was a mechanical engineer and I was encouraged to consider engineering as a career. I studied mechanical engineering at university where I started to learn programming which I really enjoyed. My PhD was developing a computer controlled machine for filament winding composite materials and I realised that I was far better at being a software engineer than a mechanical engineer! After that I moved to the computer science department and have worked as a software engineer since then.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I think that my current job is pretty cool. It combines writing software which I love doing with the engineering that I started my career with. Being at the forefront of composite materials research, by developing software to model textile composites, is both challenging and very interesting. The project I run is here: www.texgen.sourceforge.net

Role models/heroes:
I think that the women in the BCSWomen group, and especially my fellow committee members, have been a great inspiration to me. They are so enthusiastic about the field that they work in and also passionate about encouraging women to start, and then continue in, careers in computing.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I think that it’s just what makes me tick! There’s always something new and interesting to learn.

Advice for future STEMinists?
If you are interested in and want to work in STEM don’t be put off by people who try to persuade you that it will be hard (which it sometimes may be, but what’s wrong with a challenge!) or that it’s not for women. Just decide what you want to do and go for it!

Favorite website or app: I think The Code Project has to be one of my favourites. It nearly always helps with coding problems I’m facing and its daily newsletter leads me to blogs and articles both serious and not so serious.

Twitter: @louisepb

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Emily Rice, Assistant Professor, Engineering Science & Physics

Emily Rice

Emily Rice

Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island
(Engineering Science & Physics Department)

Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History
(Department of Astrophysics)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I enjoyed math from at least the sixth grade, took advanced classes throughout high school, and when I started college I was planning on majoring in math. In the fall semester of my freshman year I also signed up for an introductory astronomy class, and I was hooked. I signed up for physics the following semester so I could major in physics & astronomy and take the rest of the astronomy courses. But I didn’t do much research as an undergraduate and wasn’t certain I would pursue a career in STEM until I started working at a planetarium after graduating from college. I learned so much more about astronomy and public outreach while I was there that I decided I wanted to pursue research and a Ph.D. in astronomy.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I am thrilled with how my fledgling research career has expanded since my Ph.D. to include low mass stars and extra-solar planets. I started out studying brown dwarfs, which are objects with masses in between the masses of stars and planets. My collaborators and I are trying to understand all of these objects in concert because they are surprisingly similar despite the striking differences between, for example, the Sun and Jupiter in our own Solar System.

Role models/heroes:
Even though he didn’t teach science, I still look up to my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Eugene Tiesler, because he taught in a way that made me feel capable and comfortable – I hope I can do the same for my own students. I also admire fellow scientists who have achieved success in their careers while mentoring students and having a family and interesting hobbies – luckily there are too many to name!

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the variety and flexibility – I have a lot of different day-to-day responsibilities and there are always opportunities for new projects, in teaching, writing, presenting, research, travel, and more. I meet a lot of people who are interested in what I do, and it is always satisfying to help them learn more or change the way they think about science or scientists, even slightly. I think if everyone understood science just a little bit more, the world would be a better place for it.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Two pieces of advice:

1. Find what you enjoy, even if it’s not what others expect of you. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it won’t be a chore to devote yourself to it and excel.

2. Just because you have achieved a degree of success doesn’t been it is available to everyone. Take an honest look at your path and your community and figure out what you can do or change to make science open to and supportive for others who might be interested. We will all benefit from developing an equitable and diverse STEM community!

Favorite website or app:  Astronomy Picture Of the Day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/

Twitter: @emilulu
Website: http://about.me/emilyrice

Profiles

STEMinist Profiles: Allison McDaniel, Lab Technician, United Vaccines

Allison McDaniel

Allison McDaniel

Lab Technician
Viral Module – Tissue Culture

United Vaccines, Inc.



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I like to know things. I like to play with things, open them up, take them apart. My parents bought me the Time-Life: A Child’s First Library of Learning book series when I was a kid, and I was hooked. I read each one cover to cover as they arrived. Dinosaurs, animals, the planet; just thinking about them makes me nostalgic. I also lucked out in that I had extremely supportive science teachers in high school. They sort of pushed me towards research, letting me take on small projects outside of the classroom, and I started volunteering in hospital labs and veterinary clinics.

When I went into my undergraduate work, I thought for sure my future was in veterinary medicine, but I started working in a sickness-behavior lab part time and took some amazing classes on current stem cell research. Those experiences really changed my interests. I wanted to be the one making the medicine, not administering it.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Although my time spent in Shigeki Miyamoto’s lab at UW-Madison on SUMOylation and inflammatory response was life transforming, in my heart I know that for me, the coolest project I’ve ever worked on is on a much smaller scale. During the 2010-2011 school year, I was a volunteer teacher for a Sunday class of about 20 fourth graders. Exploring Our Origins gave kids a glimpse of the universe from the Big Bang until today. The teachers and the curriculum developers were all volunteers which created this amazing atmosphere of excitement about science, and the kids ate it up.

It makes you so proud as a teacher when a ten year old asks a question that you don’t know the answer to. Presenting science so that kids can touch it, smell it, and understand it to the point of wonderment is a beautiful thing and I think it is rarely achieved in today’s classrooms. Science shouldn’t be about knowing the answers but finding them.

Role models/heroes:
I love Jeff Corwin. He makes the planet seem worth saving rather than already doomed. I wanted to be him when I was little and I would go out into the fields and track animals and pretend I was a field researcher. Also I have my parents and family to thank for everything that I am. My dad has been my biggest fan forever. My mom taught me how to be a strong woman, and as a woman in STEM, recognizing that you are valuable and capable is essential.

Why do you love working in STEM?
Science is in my bones. It’s a part of me. Every day someone posts an article about new research and I say, “Wow, that’s amazing!” I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Just keep swimming…seriously. Also, if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Get out. Be happy.

Favorite website or app: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php. This website got me through grad school.

Twitter: @AWMcDaniel
Website: newsflask.blogspot.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Eunice Nuekie Cofie, President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist

Eunice Nuekie Cofie

President and Chief Cosmetic Chemist
Nuekie, Inc.



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
As an African-American woman, I had always been made to feel that I was not beautiful because of my ethnicity. I was often picked on by my peers because of my dark skin and kinky hair as a child and remembered crying endlessly about the hurtful comments that damaged my self-esteem. My saving grace was my father’s encouragement for me to pursue an understanding of science. My father would spend countless hours teaching me how to conduct science experiments as little girl which led me to have a strong love for it and science became my strength. I understood that I may not be the prettiest girl in the room but I could be the smartest girl in the room. This love led me to major in chemistry as an undergraduate student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

One day while in my organic chemistry lab class, my eyes were opened to the world of cosmetic science. My professor wanted my classmates and I to understand how to practically apply organic chemistry to our everyday lives. So he decided to have us create lotions and hair relaxers instead of conducting the regular lab experiments. I was bitten by the creative bug and began working alongside my professor learning as much as I could about cosmetic science.

I discovered in my research that the pigment of my skin was created by a substance in our cells called melanin which led me to realize that those cells were divinely placed there and that my skin color did not make me inferior. I also realized that the cosmetic and the dermatological industry lacked effective treatments that took into account the unique structure and function of ethnic skin and hair. I realized at that moment this was the path that I wanted to take. My dream was to close the gap in the quality of treatment products available to ethnic people.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My current project that I am working on for my company is a product-line which will treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark marks on the skin) in ethnic skin. I am excited about the launch of my company’s first product-line this fall.

Role models/heroes:
One of my heroes is Madam C.J. Walker for her entrepreneurial spirit which led her to become the first female millionaire. I appreciate how she was able to take an idea and develop it with the resources she had around her. My other hero is Janice Bryant-Howroyd, Founder and CEO of ACT-1 because she is able to translate her Christian faith into doing well in business and in her community.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working as cosmetic chemist because I have an opportunity to change lives by inspiring ethnic men and women to discover they are perfect in beauty.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Pursuing a Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) career as women, especially as a woman of color, can be quite challenging due to the social constructs which do not heavily encourage women to assume roles in this field of work. I would say do not be afraid to take the lead and to realize you have everything within you to succeed! I would also encourage more women to pursue entrepreneurship in the STEM and bring new innovations to our society that will create world-class companies and increase job growth.

Favorite website or app: www.blackenterprise.com

Twitter: @nuekie
Website: www.nuekie.com, www.eunicecofie.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, Lecturer, College of ECST

Claudia Espinosa-Villegas, PhD

Lecturer, College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECST)
Cal State University, Los Angeles



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
Truthfully, I was inspired by the show Star Trek. I wanted to be the Science Officer for one of the Starships, preferably as Mr. Spock’s assistant. It was also one of the ways I learned English. Watching the show made me take my science studies more seriously, and as I grew up on the beach the decision to be an oceanographer was an easy one. While doing my undergraduate degree I became very interested in the issues regarding water pollution and also sustainability, which inspired me to continue my studies and get a doctorate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering (Iowa, ’08).

I grew up in Mexico, and we lived in an area that frequently had no power or running water. Many times my homework was done by the light of oil lamps. So that instilled a desire to get ahead and I knew getting an education was my best option. Everyone faces challenges; it’s how you respond to them that matters.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Currently I have a class that is designing a low-cost single occupancy home to be placed in an urban environment of a developed country. My students have decided to use cargo containers for their designs, and will be submitting their work to an international competition. It is exciting to see their creativity and what they come up with as they are not limited by what “should” be done.

Overall, the coolest was when I was a whale watching guide in an ecotourism camp in Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California Sur, Mexico. I met a lot of people while living in a 1 sq mile island that had solar power, sea-water enzyme compost toilets, solar water heaters, and no electronics. It was my first experience living such a green lifestyle and I loved it. Also touching the whales was an incredible experience. I can now say I have touched the belly button of a wild gray whale. :-p

Role models/heroes:
U2, for inspiring me with their music and helping me become aware of social justice issues, and both my Abuelita (grandma) & Mom, who pushed me to succeed and get an education.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love seeing my students become aware of STEM related issues, and also when they realize that they truly have mastered material they thought was out of their league. I work primarily with traditionally underrepresented students, so being a role model and mentor is something I take very seriously. Teaching STEM is challenging, as you have to really know the material and be able to explain it so different people can understand. It also keeps you up to date, as keeping the material relevant is important so I am always learning about the subjects I teach so I can put the concepts from the textbooks into context for my students.

Advice for future STEMinists?

  • Believe in yourself, and do not listen to anyone that tells you that you are not able/good enough.
  • Find a mentor(s) and maintain the relationship(s), thank you letters go a long way.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help, it is an incredibly important skill to have and very hard to learn.
  • Apply to everything no matter what it is: jobs, scholarships, workshops, internships, etc. Do not disqualify yourself from anything by thinking you are not good enough. Always apply!
  • Learn to say NO and don’t apologize for it. Guys don’t sweat it, neither should you.

Favorite website or app:
I love Inhabitat for all things green, it is very easy to navigate. I really enjoy Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool contest as it shows how people can live in much smaller homes than what the average person has, and still be comfortable. It inspired me to move to a place that is about 360 square feet.

Twitter: @water_n_science is my professional account, @EnvPhD is the account I use for my classes and students.

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Tia Stackle, Regional Data Engineer

Tia Stackle

Regional Data Engineer
Suddenlink Communications



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was always good in math and sciences. I liked that there was a “right” answer out there and that the classes weren’t graded by the whim of the teacher’s preference. When I was a stay-at-home homeschooling mother for seven years, I used the computer a lot to get curriculum and other ideas. I taught myself how to use HTML to make my own webpages. But when it came time to pick a career, I wanted something less “artsy” than web design. I realized that network engineering is all about communication – and I like communicating and helping others to gain knowledge and socialize and enjoy all that technology has to give us today. Without networks, none of that is possible.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My version of cool may not seem all that great to others…But I was working for a cable company that was launching telephony services back in the mid-2000s. Marketing hadn’t timed their launch date with Engineering very well so we ended up with a due date that was two weeks after the equipment showed up in our warehouse. I led the team in installing, configuring and testing six UBR100112 routers (hip height routers that tie the Ethernet network to the hybrid fiber coax plant) in six different cities before our due date. It was fun, challenging and rewarding. What is cooler than that?

Role models/heroes:
Padmasree Warrior – CTO of Cisco, Nomi Bergman – President of Brighthouse, Charlotte Field – Senior VP of Infrastructure and Operations at Comcast.

Why do you love working in STEM?
It is exciting to be on the cutting edge of technology – doing things that no one thought possible 10 years ago. I love leading a team to make The Network bigger, faster, stronger, better and to know that without us (network engineers in general), broadband and the Internet wouldn’t be the essential tool it has become.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Work hard. Learn a lot. Love what you do. STEM changes the world every day and we want to be part of that change so hang in there.

Favorite website or app:
Honestly…Netflix. Probably shouldn’t publish that though since I work for a cable company. 🙂 Sudoku puzzles would be what I spend the most “free time” using. I have been told they’ll help to keep me from losing my mind…and with a house full of daughters, a new husband, and a crazy career that has me work at all hours of the day and night, I need every bit of help I can get!

Twitter: @tiastackle

Profiles

STEMinist Profiles: Dana Smith, Ph.D. student in Experimental Psychology

Dana Smith

Dana Smith

Ph.D. student in Experimental Psychology
University of Cambridge



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I originally got interested in psychology from a clinical standpoint, thinking I would pursue a career as a therapist. However, in the psychology courses I took during my time as an undergraduate, I realized I was much more interested in the neuroscientific aspect of the field. I became fascinated by the brain, wanting to understand the underlying neurobiological reasons for our actions. I also preferred the more concrete nature of research, being able to empirically address a question rather than relying on self-reports or speculation.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My work is on the brain mechanisms involved in drug addiction, and we recently finished a project investigating the differences in the brains and behaviors of addicted and recreational drug users. We hope to discover why some individuals are prone to addiction, while others can use drugs consistently on occasion without ever developing dependency. This latter group has been vastly understudied, and we hope to discover insights into potential protective factors against addiction.

Role models/heroes:
My advisor, Dr. Karen Ersche, is a brilliant researcher in addiction science, and her commitment, inquisitiveness and insight into the field have been an invaluable resource for me. Also, Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, has long been one of my academic crushes. Her career is unparalleled and is truly inspiring.

Why do you love working in STEM?
While some days slogging through research can be pretty rough, those eureka moments when you find a connection in the data or have an idea for a new project are incredibly exciting! Also, the caliber of the intellect of the people you get to work with is unmatched.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Think of something you’re curious or excited about, find the people who do it best, and go learn from them.

Favorite website or app:
The Well blog on the New York Times Health website always reports on super interesting exercise research findings (a personal side interest of mine). Also, Mo Costandi’s Neurophilosophy blog on the Guardian Science website is great!

Twitter: @smithdanag
Website: brainstudy.wordpress.com