Kristen Sager Cincotta
Occupation: ORISE fellow/guest public health policy researcher
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I liked learning about how things work, especially within the body, and I loved my science classes in grade school. Science felt more like playing than my other classes, which were mostly memorizing and regurgitating things. When I realized that I could have a career in science that might actually help us solve some of the greatest problems facing the world today, instead of helping someone else make money selling something, I was all in.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
My graduate work all focused on Alzheimer’s Disease, and in particular, a receptor protein that appears to manipulate the production of ABeta, the primary component of amyloid plaques. At one point, I got to work on a project attempting to identify novel compounds that could interact with and redirect my receptor around the cell, thus giving us a way to control ABeta production.
It was a highly translational project that could have significant ramifications for our ability to treat, or more likely, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in patients. I found it very exciting to be working on something with that type of applicability to a very real problem. Plus, I got to use some seriously cool robotics in setting up the high throughput compound screenings!
My undergraduate advisor, Dr. Jean Hardwick and the women of the Ithaca College Biology Department who showed me that women can run not just their own labs, but entire scientific departments. Mary Lasker, Nancy Brinker, and Laura Ziskin, who all identified important gaps in our public health system (especially regarding cancer) and worked (or are working) to do something about it. My mother, whose strength and resolve in living her life with Stage IV breast cancer is a daily reminder that some things are worth fighting for.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Because it’s fun and it’s important in equal measure. Scientists get to play with interesting equipment and techniques, see things most people never do, and spend days and weeks thinking about and trying to answer questions that most people don’t have the time to even consider. And scientists have the ability to change the world for the better.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Support each other, especially up-and-coming women in science. For whatever reason, women in STEM can be very judgmental of their fellow STEMinists. It almost feels like there’s an unspoken belief that if we broaden the field to allow more women in, we will be diminishing the accomplishments of the STEMinist trail blazers that went before us. It’s a weird paradox that I was disheartened to discover. We should be opening our arms and supporting all women in STEM, not self-selecting those we feel are the “right” type of female scientist.
Twitter – it’s my news feed and communications outlet all in one!