Women in STEM – Dominique Simmons

s-ladyologyDominique Simmons – Applied Research Scientist at DimensionalMechanics

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

 

What is your research topic? I conduct AI (Artificial Intelligence) research. I design and run cognitive experiments (e.g. decision-making, perception, visual attention) and use the human data to inform how to build these cognitive components our AI platform. I also build AI models for the platform. I’m currently working on a natural language processing model.

Simmons_DDominique Simmons is an Applied Research Scientist at DimensionalMechanics working on Artificial Intelligence. Follow her on Twitter at @artsci00

 

What was your best day of science? When my code works!

What was your worst day in science? When I have no clue why my code won’t work.

What did you study at university? I studied multisensory perception for my Master’s work. It’s the study of how the senses integrate and influence one another.

What does your average day look like? Writing, coding, and thinking of ways to apply higher-level concepts to code.

What are some of the highlights of your career? Learning to program in MATLAB early in my career as a lab manager was a total game changer. It opened up so many doors as I could then think in coding terms and translate from the abstract to the more technical.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab:

Where did you grow up? San Diego, California (why did I ever leave??)

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? It’s funny because I think a lot of people remember the outlandish job ideas they had as a kid. I wanted to be a psychologist and it stuck. I thought of other options like being an interpreter but psychology never faded out.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? Aside from cooking I love going to concerts! I’m a huge music fan so it’s great to be in that type of environment for a couple of hours.

What is your family life like? My mother raised me as a single parent while taking courses at a local community college. She eventually wrapped up coursework at a 4-year university. I was so proud to watch her graduate with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Administration. Her work made me realize that there was no excuse not to pursue my dreams.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

Why were your drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? I have always been fascinated by the brain. I figured that’s what makes people do the things that they do. I also wondered about their perspective and how they saw the world. Those childhood curiosities still resonate in my work today.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? An unanticipated (and major) lack in support from department faculty. By the time I found potential mentors, I was already mentally done. Part of the way through my PhD work I turned to industry as a refuge, defended my Master’s thesis, and accepted my current position. I hope current and future students find the support they need so that they never have to go through what I went through.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Learning can be a lot of fun but it’s not always easy. That’s where a “can-do” attitude is critical. Believe that you CAN and WILL get to a solution and you will get there.

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Diversity in thought breeds innovation. That applies to the lab, the office, and the classroom. Women, like other underrepresented groups in STEM fields, can greatly contribute to that diversity in thought. We need lots of ideas from people of different walks of life to build better technology, better algorithms, and better products.

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

  • What is your favorite desk snack? Blackberries. They’re great as a mid-morning snack!
  • What is your favorite cartoon? Gumball. My step-kids introduced me to it and I’ve been hooked ever since. The character development and humor are what draw me in.
  • What would you listen to while writing? A Vitamin String Quartet playlist. I still get to listen to guilty pleasures and be able to focus.
  • What was your favorite subject in high school? Marine biology. Taking field trips to the beach to find different kinds of seaweed was a win-win situation.
  • What color socks are you wearing? Gray! I have upped my sock game and now wear a different color each day.

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Follow Dominique on Twitter @artsci00

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Crystal Lantz

s-ladyologyCrystal Lantz – Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Maryland – College Park

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your research topic? I study the development and maintenance of plasticity in the primary visual cortex. More specifically, I look at how inhibitory neurons gate plasticity in different ways throughout life and I investigate ways to manipulate this control for the treatment of amblyopia.

lantz_deskCrystal Lantz is a Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Maryland – College Park in Neuroscience. Follow her on Twitter @BoozyBrain.

What was your best day of science? I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good days in science. Any day that my electrophysiology rig is working well and I’m collecting good data makes me happy, as does trying new experiments that work the very first time. Recently I piloted an optogenetics study using new equipment that I built myself. Amazingly, it worked perfectly and as predicted the very first time I tried it (not so much the next few times). That was a very good day.

What was your worst day in science? Worst days are usually when science doesn’t work because I did something thoughtless, or when things just don’t work for no reason. When I was in graduate school I was doing a blood alcohol time course and had come in at 2am to start my experiment, I was taking a time point every 2 hours for 24 hours. At the end of the day I had to run each sample in an old photospectrometer, which decided that it would no longer work. I was exhausted and so very frustrated.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? My favorite piece of equipment is my electrophysiology rig. I built it, I perfected it and it’s my baby. It gets me almost all of my data and very rarely lets me down.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in a town called Harrisonburg. Home of the Blue Streaks and JMU Dukes.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I always wanted to be a scientist. When I was in elementary school my uncle lived with us while attending college, he was studying science (and went on to PhD, post-doc and now a professor). To say his excitement for science rubbed off on me would be an understatement.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? To relax after work I generally craft or cook. I really enjoy baking, sewing and painting watercolors. On weekends I’m usually hiking, backpacking, or fly fishing

Do you have any fun hobbies? I like to think all of my hobbies are fun! I really enjoy fly fishing as it has a wonderful sense of community as well as gets me to backpack and hike in places I wouldn’t normally go. I’ve fly fished in diverse places from the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, to the Salt Flats of Belize.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask questions, ask for help, ask to work in a lab. Even in high school you can get experience at local labs. You cannot get anywhere without reaching out, and you will always benefit from asking questions and asking for help.

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I don’t think I have just one person, but a community of STEM oriented people that inspired me throughout my youth. I’ve already mentioned my uncle (Dr. Chris Lantz), but there was my incredible 8th grade science teacher, Ms. Ritchie, whose excitement for science was infectious. Then the entire team of STEM teachers at my high school, Harrisonburg High School, that were always supportive, passionate and on the cutting edge of science. There was Mrs. Flick, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Blosser, Mr. White and Mr. Lineweaver just to name a few. It’s amazing how many things I use that I learned in high school. Don’t ever think high school math is worthless. I routinely use geometry, calculus and algebra in my work.

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? I’ve always loved Neuroscience, from the first time I saw a drawing of a neuron in Mr. Blosser’s biology class. There was a brief time when I considered going to medical school, I spent 2 years working as a scribe in various emergency rooms, but I decided medicine wasn’t for me. I ended up pursuing science and a PhD because I like research. I like working at the bench, asking questions and finding ways to try to answer them.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Getting to the end. PhDs are hard. Grad school is hard. It’s often difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when other students in your cohort are graduating and your experiments keep failing. I learned, probably too late, the best mantras for grad school are “Don’t try to be the fastest” and “Don’t compare yourself to others.”

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

What is your favorite desk snack? Sourdough bread and cheese. So good, can make a bad day good.

What would you listen to while writing? I tend to listen to a random playlist of classical music. In high school a teacher told me that listening to classical music raises your IQ (it doesn’t really), so I got into the habit of listening to classical while studying. That habit stuck with me all the way through my PhD and is now my writing music. Coding music and surgical music are very different.

Any other fun facts about you… While I was in graduate school I took two weeks off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with my mom, it was totally worth it.Lantz_kilimanjaro

What color socks are you wearing? Grey/Blue Darn Tough.tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Follow Crystal on Twitter @BoozyBrain

lantz_headshot

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Meredyth Wegener

s-ladyologyMeredyth Wegener – Graduate Student at University of Pittsburgh in Neuroscience

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your research topic? I am interested in how the dopamine system encodes learning and reward, especially in adolescents and those with omega-3 dietary deficiency.

Wegener-PosterMeredyth Wegener – Graduate Student at University of Pittsburgh in Neuroscience. Follow her on Twitter @whynotwegener

 

What was your best day of science? Judging the Intel International Science Fair

What was your worst day in science? Not getting into graduate school right out of college felt the worst but turned out for the best.

What are you studying at university? My undergraduate major was Neuroscience with a minor in Latin.

What does your average day look like? I write for a couple hours in the morning and then do data analysis on the data for my thesis at the moment.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? I like the electrophysiological equipment in my lab the best. Watching neurons in the brain work live in real time is amazing.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? Baltimore, MD

Wegener_graduation

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I’m not sure I thought about it much, I wasn’t a very motivated kid.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? I play board games.

Do you have any pets? Not personally, but my family has a lot of dogs.

Do you have any fun hobbies? I like my board games, and I occasionally rock climb, but not as much since I moved to Pittsburgh.

If you want to talk about your family, what is your family life like? My parents are both in the academic/medical realm and my sister works in retail. My boyfriend is also a graduate student, but is in Chemistry and almost done!

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? When I moving from middle school to high school, I turned down the chance to be in honors math. It sounded like too much work and I wasn’t really interested in math. What I didn’t realize was that this would bar me from honors physics and chemistry. My chemistry teacher saw I was bored in class and had me teach part of the lecture. She also encouraged me to volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I think the aquarium really sealed it for me.

Wegener_electrophysiologyWhy were you drawn to science? I’ve also been very curious about why people did what they did and the biology behind that. Asking a lot of questions often leads to an interest in science.

Did you ever consider another career path? My parents really wanted me to go to medical school. If I hadn’t gotten into graduate school, I probably would have started there.

How close was your schooling related to your current job? Very closely.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? I’ve always struggles with scientific writing as well as maintaining memorized facts. When I took my comprehensive exam my third year, it felt like I was doomed. It’s an intense crucible for people with struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’. It seems inevitable that you will be found out as not good enough and dismissed. Success in graduate school is more about persistence than smarts though, and I got through it eventually.

climbing

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I want to teach science at a college level, and a PhD was the only way I knew to do that.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Keep going. It doesn’t work often, and there will be a lot of criticism, but it is all a learning opportunity. Persistence and fortitude are your best tools. Also, talk to people who live the life you think you might want. Most people like sharing their stories, and it is one of the best sources of accurate information and advice.

 

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Right now, the STEM system feels rigid. Like there is one way to get where you are going, and if you can’t make it, tough. But that doesn’t seem to foster innovation or passion, which is crucial to the field. If more women became involved, I think we would be able to better explore alternative paths and approaches.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

  • What is your favorite book? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • What is your favorite desk snack? Cheez-its
  • What is your favorite cartoon? Calvin and Hobbes
  • What would you listen to while writing? Instrumental versions of rap and hiphop music
  • What was your favorite subject in high school? Photography

bluesbrothers

  • What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? A drawing of me as a scientist cat.
  • Organization nut, or curated chaos? Organization enthusiast
  • Any other fun fact about you… I did my first year of college in Ireland because I didn’t like any of the colleges I got into in the US.
  • What color socks are you wearing? light green smartwool socks with hearts on the side, a Christmas present from my grandmother.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Follow Meredyth on Twitter @whynotwegener

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Sue Fletcher-Watson

s-ladyologySue Fletcher-Watson – Research Fellow at University of Edinburgh in Psychology

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your work/research topic? I mostly do research with and for the autism and autistic communities.  My focus at the moment is often on using novel technologies to support autistic learners to achieve their goals.

Fletcher-Watson_S_familySue Fletcher-Watson is a Research Fellow at University of Edinburgh in Psychology. Follow Sue on Twitter @suereviews

What was your best day of science? My biggest sense of achievement comes from providing an evidence-based answer to a question which really matters to people in the community. I’m much more proud of the app-wheel I created, which summarises the best apps I’ve reviewed for autistic users, than the published RCT (randomized controlled trial) which we did for one specific app.  The two are intertwined – it is the research experience that I feel gives me the right and the expertise to pass judgement on other apps. But it is the community output, in the form of app reviews, which I think really makes a difference.

What was your worst day in science? They happen all the time – the killers for me are rejected grant bids, especially when I put a lot of time and effort into the proposal. I hate having to email my colleagues and let them know the study we hoped for hasn’t been funded.  Also, now that I have more supervision responsibility, I have to deal with the fact that often bad news from funders has serious consequences for the career goals of my students and research assistants.

What did/are you study at university? Psychology, and then a masters in developmental psychopathology

What does your average day look like? My days feel pretty crowded nowadays.  I guess I’m transitioning at the moment from “early career” to “mid career” status.  In practical terms this means I have to manage multiple projects instead of being largely focused on one project (with maybe a couple of extra streams closely related to the main activity).

What are some of the highlights of your career? I was awarded a prize by the British Psychological Society last year.  It was a huge honour – especially looking at the list of past winners.  And I got so many kind messages from my colleagues when it was announced.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

 

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I tussled for a long time with whether I should go down a practitioner route (special education or clinical psychology) or a research route.  In the end, I felt like it was a choice between helping a small number of people a lot (as, for example, a teacher in a specialist school) or helping a large number of people (e.g. everyone with autism, forever) a teeny tiny amount. I made the right choice for my personality I think.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? I work hard to make time for myself and for my family.  I try to walk to or from work (which takes about an hour) – it is really good decompression time. Now that my salary is a bit more robust then it was, I treat myself to a massage every couple of months.

How did your family develop alongside your career?  My kids were born when I was just a few years out of my PhD. I took relatively little maternity leave (compared with what’s usual in the UK) and went back to work full time.  My husband chose to take a part-time position while I became the main breadwinner in our household.  The model continues to work really well for us.

Since having kids I have definitely become much more efficient about work and I have a lot of rules (which I try to stick to) about checking email outside office hours and so on.  I try to work hard and intensively in the office and switch off entirely at home. I always leave on time, but I normally come in early – I leave the house before the rest of my family wake up as I am most productive in the early morning.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? I was inspired to become a psychologist by my experiences on a holiday with children with learning disabilities which I volunteered on for the first time when I was seventeen. I was moved by the huge contributions they made to my life, and upset by the evidence of their many unmet needs. I wanted to do something in my life which would make their lives and the lives of their families smoother and happier.

Are there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now, and why? Tons!  I follow a bunch of incredible academics on twitter whose dedication and expertise in their field is staggering, but who also find time to support junionr colleagues and to use their influence to comment on policy and practice. Examples would be @cathyabbotlab @utafrith and @deevybee

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Our population is half female.  Gender balance in any industry is a matter of absolute principle. Furthermore, we can’t possibly expect to produce scientific findings which are meaningful to women without female representation in the scientific community.  Finally, we hear a lot about how women can ‘get ahead’ by adopting male-typical traits like speaking up in meetings, not apologizing at the start of a talk etc.  However I think our male colleagues have a lot to learn from a more stereotypically-female approach to the work environment.  “Emotional labour” like consideration of the needs and perspectives of others (especially junior colleagues) and a nurturing approach to both people and projects can increase success and well-being in a research group.

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

  • What is your favorite desk snack? I have a fruit bowl on my desk, but a lot of the time it contains chocolate-covered rice cakes.
  • What would you listen to while writing? Nothing!  I need silence to write!
  • unnamedWhat is the strangest thing on your desk right now? I have a squishy winky-face stressball which was sent to me by a company which makes sensory toys for kids on the autism spectrum.

 

  • Organization nut, or curated chaos? Definitely organization nut.  I feel physically anxious if I let my various organizational tasks fall behind.  I hate being in a ‘responsive mode’ where I just deal with issues as they come in and work really hard to be proactively on top of my tasks.
  • Any other fun fact about you… I bought a stand-up desk a couple of years ago which has revolutionized my office experience.  I would recommend it to anyone.
  • What color socks are you wearing? Opaque grey tights.  They have a small hole half way up my shin which is a bit mysterious.

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Follow Sue on Twitter @suereviews or you can read about all about her projects at www.dart.ed.ac.uk

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Mikaela Sifuentes

s-ladyologyMikaela Sifuentes – PhD Candidate at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in Neuroscience

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your work/research topic? I study stroke, specifically treatment with thyroid hormone as a neuroprotective agent. Over the decades, clinicians have documented observations that thyroid hormone drops in patients after stroke, and higher levels are associated with better recovery. The wide assumption in healthcare is that low thyroid hormone is the result of injury, not a causative factor, but I think there’s more to the story. Researchers have long documented a causal relationship between thyroid hormone treatment and stroke protection in animals, and my job is to find out why. If we can figure out exactly what thyroid hormone is doing to help these animals, this could strengthen the argument for clinical trials. Thyroid hormone is already deemed safe for human use, so it presents a great opportunity for advancing stroke therapy.

SifuentesMMikaela Sifuentes is a PhD Candidate at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in Neuroscience. Follow her on Twitter @neuro_file.

What was your best day of science? My best day so far was when I got the news that I had been awarded a predoctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association. I had been going through the grind of submitting grants and was expecting rejection when I opened the letter. The validation of getting the grant was the sweetest experience. I struggle with imposter syndrome like many scientists do, so that was the moment where I felt like I could breathe. Yes, someone besides your friends and coworkers think your work has value. Phew.

What are you studying at university? During undergrad, I went to a small liberal arts college called the University of Dallas, where I primarily studied biology. I was also a huge art nerd in high school, but since my university didn’t have minor degrees, I got a “concentration” in art instead. I got to produce some good quality work, and I put on an art show at the end of my senior year. Still, it looks kind of funny on my transcript to have a Bachelor’s in Biology with a concentration in Studio Art.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and even after travelling across the United States and several different countries, it’s still my favorite place to be.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a scientist, even before I knew what a scientist was. I was the kid climbing trees, collecting bugs from the backyard, documenting everything I could with a big old clunky camera. I just wanted to see everything and know how it all works. Sometimes I was too curious for my own good, and I once ended up a little too close to nature when I fell into the Leonhardt Lagoon at the Dallas Fair Park. Nature really captured my imagination the most, and becoming a biologist just grew from there.

What do you do outside of lab? Something about grad school inspired me to step up to the plate and take on leadership roles, so much of my non-lab time is taken up by student events and science outreach. I currently serve as the president of the Graduate Student Association, and I’m a founding member of my university’s Women in Science initiative. I really enjoy talking to the public about science, and our student organizations have hosted several major science literacy events in San Antonio.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I really enjoy challenging myself and testing my limits. When I was deciding whether to go to grad school, I was looking for the best opportunity to grow and make myself a more capable person. In my years as a grad student I have learned so much about science, but most importantly I have discovered new things about myself. Getting this PhD will not only prove to me that I can rise to the task, but it will also prepare me to take on the next challenge in my career.

SifuentesM2

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Be your own advocate. You’re responsible for seeking out opportunities and chasing after them. Don’t be afraid to ask for recognition.

What is the next step in your career? I am looking for a postdoctoral position related to the study of stroke, but I am also very interested in getting involved in science policy. This past September I went to the Texas State Capitol with Voices for Healthy Kids to advocate for heart-healthy policies to my state representatives, and I’ll return for Go Red for Women with the American Heart Association in February. By getting involved in the community and supporting science-backed legislation, scientists can really help to break down barriers against science literacy and public health. Last month I was ecstatic to find out that I was selected by the American Society for Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics to go to Washington D.C. and talk to my Congressional representatives in support of science research. I expect this opportunity will be a real eye-opener as to what a career in science policy may look like.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

  • What is your favorite book? Without a doubt, my favorite book is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It has everything I want in a book: comedy, mystery, tragedy, adventure. I laughed and cried to that book.
  • What would you listen to while writing? Words/lyrics distract me when I write, so I like listening to instrumental hip hop and ambient music.
  • Organization nut, or curated chaos? I’ll occasionally have bursts of organizing frenzy, but curated chaos is the status quo. On the plus side, I’ve gotten very good at finding lost items.
  • What color socks are you wearing? Right now I’m wearing red socks with tigers on them.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineFollow Mikaela on Twitter @neuro_file.

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Rachel Buckley

s-ladyologyRachel Buckley  -Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your research topic? Early prediction of Alzheimer’s disease dementia

Buckley_1Rachel Buckley is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. Follow her science on Twitter at @bucklr01.

What was your best day of science? Winning my first small project grant from an idea that I created and developed was one of my proudest moments – there was a small awards ceremony that I got to take my fiancé too, and it was so great to share my achievement with him. My other was getting to share my PhD graduation day with my family, fiancé and supervisor – what a proud day that was!

What was your worst day in science? I’ve had a few. One that sticks out in my mind is a terrible politicking moment, when a very senior researcher (and important person in my field) forced me to put my funding through their department rather than my own by threatening to jeopardize my fledgling career. No early career researcher should have to go through that sort of stress – I strongly believe that young researchers should be fostered as much as possible to thrive and then ultimately give back to the research community that supported them.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? R!!!! God, I love R – it has changed my life. Happy to teach anyone who wants to learn it.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? All over the world – Australia, the UK, Malaysia, Japan, and the Netherlands.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? A chemical engineer like my dad (when I was a child), and then a pharmacist, and then a medical doctor.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? Mainly hanging out with Michael (my partner). But a very close second is eating (at home or in restaurants – I’m addicted to food), I watch a lot of TV, I cook and bake A LOT, I knit, and I exercise. When I was at home in Melbourne, I used to love walking the family dog. I also love to go for long drives on the weekend when I get the chance. I listen to an insane amount of podcasts.

Do you have any fun hobbies? I would say all of point 7 are my hobbies. I’m particularly fond of baking and knitting. I make a mean treacle pudding.

Do you have any pets? My family dog is a miniature schnauzer (Lily) and I love and miss her very much.Buckley_2

If you want to talk about your family, what is your family life? How did your family develop alongside your career? I live with my partner, Michael, and that’s it. My family live all over the world, but I see them as much as I can during the summer and Christmas time. Michael and my family have always been an incredible support to me during my PhD and now in my postdoc. I’m contemplating having children now, but I still feel I need to establish myself a bit before I feel comfortable throwing myself in that deep end.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Just throw yourself in! Develop a nice group of friends at uni, so that you can share your stresses and achievements together. I also found I learned a LOT more in study groups than by myself. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to lecturers in the department. They LOVE to talk about their work. Build up your knowledge and your connections!

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? Prof Michael Saling from the University of Melbourne. He’s just amazing.

Why were your drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? I fell into science – I have a lot of interests and science didn’t jump out at me as an interest until I literally fell into a PhD. Even during the PhD, I wasn’t entirely sure. While I love science, and I thrive on data analysis and networking, I’m sure I would just as well enjoy a lot of other disciplines and jobs. I will continue on this path for now, but who knows where I’m headed in the future!

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Trying to juggle a full time job and the PhD at the same time. I somehow managed, but I felt I was torn in many directions at multiple times. Then again, it was good to have something else going on in my life that was going somewhere, because the PhD involves a lot of nothing (and setbacks).

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? Pure determination. I just knew I had to stick it out to finish it. I needed to get a job!

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

What is your favorite book? Life after Life (or anything Kate Atkinson)

What is your favorite desk snack? Nothing – I usually drink a lot of hot water though (weird)

What would you listen to while writing? 90s pop hits

What color socks are you wearing? Grey

Any other fun facts about you: I was a runner up in a karaoke championship.

 

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineFollow Rachel on Twitter @bucklr01.

This is a study that I’ve just started running, and that I’m very proud of: healthybrainproject.org.au

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Women in STEM – Tabitha Moses

s-ladyologyTabitha Moses – MD/PhD Student at Wayne State University

Tight Cropped Ladyology - Line.jpg

Life Inside the Lab:

What is your research topic? I haven’t picked a specific topic for my PhD yet (beyond Neuroscience), but most of my work has been on addiction and mental illness in humans. I am particularly interested in the link between trauma and addiction, and I plan to continue working in this area.

I currently have a problem with choosing just one thing (as you might be able to tell from the fact that I am aiming for both an MD and a PhD), so in addition to the science I also work in bio- and neuroethics. I have researched a number of different topics in these fields, but my main foci are addiction, emerging neurotechnologies, and neurodiversity.

Moses_T_WhiteCoatTabitha Moses is a MD/PhD Student at Wayne State University. Follow her science on Twitter at @back2brains.

What was your best day of science? Finishing my first first-author manuscript.

This was before even submitting it to the journal. It was just really amazing to have this document in front of me that was based on the first real research project I had carried out in full, from the research project itself to completing all the background work needed and culminating with the writing (of course, with heavy editing and feedback). The proverbial icing on the cake was when it was accepted with revisions, but it was before that moment that I really felt like a real researcher for the first time.

What was your worst day in science? Realizing that an entire data set (with thousands of variables and hundreds of subjects) and been copied and pasted incorrectly such that it was impossible to tell what data was correct. Luckily, no papers had been written from these data yet, but I still had to tell my P.I. the problem and how it happened, which meant telling him who made the mistake (and it sucks to have to throw someone else under the bus when they made an innocent mistake). I then had to figure out a way to fix the problem and the resulting clean-up took months of painful work.

What are you studying at university? I have always struggled to pick just one thing, so I double-majored in Cognitive Science and Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Cognitive Science was a great choice for me because it included a variety of different areas including neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, philosophy of mind, and computer science. I completed a Masters in Biotechnology to gain a greater depth of hard science knowledge. Now, I am in an MD/PhD program at Wayne State University in Detroit and I plan to complete my PhD in Neuroscience.

Moses_T_Oscar.jpgWhat does your average day look like? I am in the medical school years of my program, so right now my day involves a lot of classes and memorizing. My school allows us to stream lectures from home, which means I have to manage my time carefully. Much of my day is spent at home. I am not a morning person, so I try to get up around 9am to get ready for the day. I begin by streaming the lectures that started at 9am and try to watch them all in the morning. The afternoon/evening is for studying and any other projects I’m working on. Because I have an array of different things going on and I structure most of my own time, an “average day” doesn’t really exist in my life. That said, there are some regular activities, which include volunteering at the school-organized Street Medicine Clinic, being part of the American Medical Association Board, tutoring at a Children’s Center (as a volunteer), research, and my own personal projects. While I am not required to carry out research while I am taking medical school classes, I still try to go into the lab once every couple of weeks. Currently, I am finishing up a manuscript from my summer project when I go in is very flexible.

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineLife Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? For the most part, I grew up in a small village in England called Goring-on-Thames; my school was about an hour away by bus. Since leaving England for University in the USA when I was 18, I have managed to only live in cities (Baltimore, New York, and Detroit) and hope to continue with city life for the foreseeable future!

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a physician for as long I can remember, although there was a 6-month period when I was about five during which I wanted to be an archeologist because I wanted to be able to get muddy without being told off.Moses_T_Tigger.jpg

What do you do to relax outside of lab? As boring as it may sound, I really like being at home just relaxing with my cats. I also have a minor book addiction and find reading very relaxing. When I have a little more time (and spare money) I love to travel. Recently, my partner and I have been trying to take little weekend trips to places that are within reasonable driving distance; that way we can explore the area around us without spending significant time and money on air travel and accommodation.

Do you have any pets? Two cats: Tigger and Oscar. They are brothers, both eight years old. I got them when they were 6 weeks old. In my sophomore year of college, my roommate really wanted to foster cats and I agreed, so we took in a mother cat and three kittens. Unfortunately, I have problems with separation, so the deal was that we could keep two of those kittens and also keep fostering. So Tigger and Oscar remained and helped us take care of the new kittens we fostered.

Moses_T_Cats.jpg

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineBig Picture

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? There was one television show that first exposed me to research, and while it took me until college to really understand how one could have a career as a researcher, I think it was that show that was responsible for planting the proverbial seed in my mind. In 2000, the BBC aired a show called Child of Our Time. It was hosted and organized by Dr. Robert Winston and was basically a giant televised experiment (I still wonder how it got past any ethics board). Robert Winston and his team (and a camera crew) followed 25 children born in 2000 and conducted social experiments with them and their families as they aged (a new set of episodes would air each year). It was my first exposure to experiments like the Marshmallow test, experiments that were with people and did not need a Bunsen burner or a fume hood, and I just thought it was amazingly cool. Of course, my unethical pre-teen self decided that I wanted to create my own experiment, so my plan was to have identical decuplets when I was an adult and give one to each of my friends to raise and see how they turned out. Clearly unethical, but I think it was the first experiment I designed!

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? I know it has been said a lot recently, but I don’t think it can be overstated: it is vital that children have role models that look like them in all fields, especially STEM.

I realized when answering the question before this that most of the people in STEM I admired when I was in high school or worked with after college have been men. My (male) advisor in college suggested I find women who had MD/PhDs to talk to before I applied for those programs because it was a very difficult road for a woman and conflicts with family life. Whether or not I agree with the way he phrased that suggestion, he was correct in that it is important to young women to have women to look up to in the field and to learn about the field from.

Moses_T_PosterWhat is your best advice for girls interested in science? Go out and get what you want. My first full time job after college was at a job where I was told I would be involved in writing papers. The P.I. was very busy and those papers never really happened. After a while I realized that I should stop waiting for people to offer me the opportunity and just ask for it instead.

This was best illustrated by the time I approached a scientist/ethicist whom I deeply admire and I asked whether there was any way I could work with her. We hadn’t meet formally; I had just read her work and listened to her talk. She said yes, so we proceeded to work together (remotely) on a project that actually should be published within the next month or two. It was an amazing opportunity. I learned a lot and had fun, and it all came from having pushed away any fear of embarrassment or rejection and just asking.

Moses_T_WhiteCoatTonyAre there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now, and why? Frankly, many of the [often unknown to me] women I talk to (or just follow) on Twitter are inspiring me right now. Women who openly discuss mental illness in academia, something that many refuse to do. Women who now run their own labs and are using that power to speak out about the issues still facing many women in STEM today, like sexual harassment. Women who think up amazing projects like a magazine for neuroscience and outreach education through art, or projects like this women in STEM blog (not too seem too sycophantic!); and they do this work on this side, all while being amazing in their daily lives as well.

In the non-digital world, I have always found Dr. Judy Illes inspiring. Dr. Illes is a neuroscientist and leading neuroethicist who is internationally recognized for her research, outreach work, and mentorship. She is also a strong advocate for women in STEM and a wonderful mentor who was willing to work with a random person (me!) who went up to her at a conference and asked to work with her.

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Speaking. I hate public speaking. I even get nervous talking in groups of people I know. About a year before starting my current program I decided to let fate decide what I did. I submitted abstracts to conferences and since I was experiencing Imposter Syndrome in a way that seems to be common in many academics (especially women), I assumed they would all be rejected. Instead I ended up having a number of posters and four different presentations accepted. I almost backed out of the first conference presentation after I received the acceptance, but my supportive partner pushed me to do it. We worked for hours on my presentation, practicing it over and over, and I made it through the entire thing. In fact, I actually just gave two presentations yesterday and was still a nervous wreck about them but I am gaining confidence and skills, so I’m hoping it can only get easier.

 

tight-cropped-ladyology-line

Fun

What do you listen to while writing? Well, here’s where you get to find out my embarrassing secrets: I like to listen to bad, upbeat 90s and early 00s pop music when I’m writing. Sometimes I need extra focus, and I find words in English to be distracting, so I listen to crappy Spanish-language pop.

What was your favorite subject in high school? Biology. But only human biology. I hated when we had to learn about plants.

What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? I like to work on the dining room table because I can spread out all my stuff, so…If dining room table = desk then there is currently a cake on my desk.

Organization nut, or curated chaos? Organization all the way. I love Google Calendar and to-do lists and planning everything; it helps keep me sane.

Any other fun fact about you… I am a wonderful example of “use it or lose it”.

When I was three and four years old I lived in Italy, went to an Italian school, and spoke Italian (as well as a 4 year old speaks any language). Apparently I hated the school and when we moved back to England I refused to ever speak Italian. I remember none of it now and I’ve tried taking classes to see if the language memories are hidden in my brain and nothing comes back.

What color socks are you wearing? Purple with pink flowers on them. They are wonderfully warm and fluffy!

tight-cropped-ladyology-lineFollow Tabitha on Twitter  @back2brains.

www.tabithamoses.com

tight-cropped-ladyology-line