Emily Rose Jordan
Ph.D. student in Neuroscience
University of Cambridge, Gates Cambridge Scholars
What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?
I have always been interested in travel and in human behaviour, so I initially pursued a major in Anthropology at university. However, I was also required at my university to take a certain number of science classes so I ended up signing up for a course on human decision-making and judgement, thinking it would relate to my anthropology courses. My TA was an amazing and interesting woman and I ended up working with her in her lab for a semester. Once I realized how creative and fun it was to do research in science, I was hooked. Being in the lab is so different to reading a textbook or sitting through a lecture, and it requires teamwork, which I love.
I am so glad that my university had that science requirement and that I tried something new because otherwise I never would have realized that I was completely fascinated by the human brain. While in anthropology I could observe human behaviour, in neuroscience I could actually manipulate it and conduct groundbreaking experiments. I was also lucky to find a great mentor like my TA, who encouraged me to pursue my interests even when it seemed daunting to change my major and take on a research project.
What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
I worked on an experiment where we were able to show that social enrichment changes behaviour in mice and that these changes are passed to their offspring ‘epigenetically,’ or without actually changing the genetic sequence, but rather the expression of those genes.
My teachers and professors who encouraged me to become a scientist. At times I was intimidated by a career in science and thought that I was not up to the challenge. I owe my decision to pursue a PhD and my success in winning a scholarship to do so to three key teachers I had in high school and college who saw my passion for science and encouraged me when I might have given up. I remember their words and actions as vivid moments in my career where I began to think “I can” instead of “I can’t”.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working with a team of smart, interesting, international people. That makes it fun to go to work. I also think the brain is a pretty cool machine, so getting paid to figure out how it works is not too shabby.
Advice for future STEMinists?
Take chances. If you are interested in something, go for it even when it seems daunting. Get to know your teachers and professors; they want to help you do your best.
Favorite website or app:
I love listening to the Scientific American podcast Science Talk when I’m working in the lab; it is a fun way to learn about other branches of science.
Website: Read more about how I got into science and ended up in the UK