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: This website got me through grad school.

Twitter: @AWMcDaniel

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