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biomedical

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Amanda Loftis, Asst. Professor of Infectious Diseases

Amanda Loftis

Asst. Professor of Infectious Diseases

Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts (eastern Caribbean)



What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
As a child, I had teachers who believed I didn’t need to know math or science because I was a girl. Luckily, I had strong family support from parents who did not believe in gender roles. My parents supported my right to equal education and transferred me to another school district, where I had better opportunities to pursue math and science. I was fascinated by biology and wanted to be a veterinarian.

I was first introduced to research during an advanced biology course in high school, and I discovered the challenges and puzzle-solving involved in research. I still became a veterinarian, but I took my training a few steps further and added a research PhD. My specialty is emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases, working with pathogens that spread between species and affect both human and animal health.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
The coolest project I ever worked on was the discovery of a new tick-transmitted pathogen in the USA, “Panola Mountain Ehrlichia”. We found the bacterium by pure serendipity, an unexpected discovery. We showed that the disease is found throughout the eastern USA and that it infects people, as well as white-tailed deer and goats.

Now, a few years later, scientists at several institutions, including myself, are working to develop diagnostic tools and on research to better understand its impact on both human and animal health. In today’s world, discovering an unknown, endemic, pathogen in a developed country like the USA is pretty unusual.

Role models/heroes:
My research mentor throughout my undergraduate and professional programs, Dr. William Davis (Washington State University) is, to this day, my role model. He encouraged me to grow as a scientist, trained me out of my fear of public speaking, and taught me about both the strategy and the philosophy to manage a research program successfully. I did not understand the value of many of those lessons until years later, but they were critical elements of my professional development. I continually strive to be as good a mentor for the students who join my program.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love the challenge of working on the edge of what we know about the world around us, and I feel that my work contributes meaningfully to our understanding of—and therefore our ability to improve—both human and animal health. I couldn’t do work like this in any other field except biomedical research.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Support from family, friends, and mentors can be incredibly important, especially when you are developing the training and skills you will need to succeed in your field. A good mentor will teach you skills that you are not even aware you need to learn. I don’t think your mentor necessarily has to be a woman, just someone who sees your potential, helps you identify opportunities for growth, and encourages you to go for them!

Favorite website/app:
Facebook is my main way to connect with friends, family, and colleagues. Living in a small island nation means being cut off from the world at large, and the ability to remain connected, follow friends’ life updates, and share pictures is vital to maintaining a healthy social network.

Twitter: @doclof

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Dustyn Roberts, NSF Graduate Research Fellow

Dustyn Roberts

Dustyn Roberts

National Science Foundation
Graduate Research Fellow, Ph.D. Candidate

Polytechnic Institute of NYU


What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
My dad was an engineer and I was always good at math and science, so I chose a college with a strong engineering program. After a year or two I settled into mechanical and biomedical engineering and have really enjoyed it.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I got to work on part of the Mars Curiosity rover that’s currently on its way to Mars.

Role models/heroes:
Yoky Matsuoka.

Why do you love working in STEM?
The more I learn the more I understand how the world works, and my STEM based education gives met the ability to ask interesting questions and be able to answer them, both through theory and experiments.

Advice for future STEMinists?
Stay curious. Years of calculus can dull the spark in some budding engineers, but keep at it. Also, don’t let the male/female gender ratio get you down. Most men I know have a great deal of respect for women in engineering because they know we had to sometimes go through more to get where we are.

Favorite website or app:
HootSuite for managing social media, Adafruit Industries Circuit Playground for tech.

Twitter: @dustynrobots
Website: www.makingthingsmove.com

Profiles

STEMinist Profile: Erica Mauter, Sr. Validation Engineer, Teva Pharmaceuticals

Erica Mauter

Erica Mauter

Senior Validation Engineer
Teva Pharmaceuticals

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I had a vague sense of being interested in science and engineering as far back as grade school. What cemented it for me was, during high school, seeing a show on PBS about biomedical engineers who analyzed Olympic athletes to improve their training. These engineers worked on athletes’ form and also on equipment athletes used to train. I played sports, so this practical application was illuminating for me.

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
Outside of my day job, I love playing with my websites. I’ve been a blogger for almost 10 years; in addition to my personal blog, swirlspice, and my namesake ericamauter.com, I’ve had a few niche interest projects come and go. I’m not a developer or a designer by any stretch, but playing with features and code-y bits has long been a fun pastime for me. Bonus: through my web presence, I’ve met a lot of really great friends and people who do amazing things in technology and the business of technology.

Role models/heroes:
lynne d johnson has long been someone I look up to. She’s truly a pioneer in every facet of the modern web. She’s been producing content, managing online communities, and doing digital marketing since way before most people knew what those things were. The first time I met her was at the 2006 BlogHer conference; I saw her in a hallway and totally went all fangirl and blurted out, “Oh my god, you’re lynne d johnson!” I’m now pleased to call her a good friend as well.

Why do you love working in STEM?
I love having these skills that not everyone has. STEM work is not easy, but it’s a good match for what I happen to be good at doing, and that makes it rewarding. Also, being in validation, I do a lot of technical writing. There’s an art to writing a document that’s technically accurate and comprehensive, that speaks to and satisfies regulatory requirements, and that is still comprehensible by a non-expert. In that sense, it’s quite creative work.

Advice for future STEMinists?
There is a wider variety of jobs for STEM majors than you can even imagine, so do your research. For example, I did my first internship at a food company, in R&D. My project was to figure out how to make a cereal stay crispier longer in milk (aka, “extend its bowl life”). Also, if you’re graduating with a degree in a STEM field, you are a smart, capable person and you absolutely deserve to be well-compensated for your work. Negotiate your salary offers. Always ask for more. Read the book “Women Don’t Ask” for help with that.

Favorite website or app:
Just one?! Unpossible! Okay, I’ll name Instapaper as my favorite app. It lets you save web pages for reading at a later time and in a more readable form. My favorite website is Racialicious, “a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture.” It’s eye-opening, and the perspectives generally apply to people existing in any non-dominant aspect of culture, including women.

Twitter: @swirlspice
Website: swirlspice.com