STEMinist Profile: Christina Fuentes, Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience

Christina Fuentes

Christina Fuentes

Postdoctoral Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I was always interested in science, and as a teenager I became more interested in human behaviour. It wasn’t until my first semester at university, though, that I was introduced to the study of the biology behind psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and I was hooked. What could be more interesting than understanding why we think, feel, and behave as we do!

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
For my Ph.D. research I worked with children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Working with them was at times challenging, but it was overall quite fun and always rewarding. Chatting with their families was also rewarding and enlightening; here is a group of people who are looking to science for answers not out of interest but out of need. I loved being able to answer some of their questions and was inspired by their will and insight. This experience has helped me remember that while there’s a lot to be learned through experiments, there’s also a lot to be learned from the people who live and work with patients every day, as well as the patients themselves!

Role models/heroes:
My Ph.D. adviser Amy Bastian taught me how to be a good researcher and a confident scientist. She’s now a close friend and I still look to her as a model of achieving a successful work-life balance. Additional inspiration came from members of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). I was very involved with the group during my Ph.D. and this allowed me to meet a number of STEM women with a variety of careers outside of academia. Until then I had thought that the route to a professorship was my only option; these women opened my eyes to other exciting options that I had previously never considered.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I’m always learning new things! Working in STEM isn’t an outcome, it’s an ongoing learning experience. It’s all about asking “how?” and “why?”.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Work toward a field you’re interested in but keep your mind open to new directions. Also, don’t fall into a career path just because that’s what those before you have done. The best example of this is the traditional academic path of scientists into professorships, which I mentioned above. While this may be a great career for some, there are lots of great jobs out there for scientists; don’t limit yourself to the traditional!

Favorite website or app:
I couldn’t do without keeping in touch with friends and family via Facebook or keeping up with the latest news via Twitter.

Twitter: @CTFuentes

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