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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Nicol Caplin and I am currently a Research Fellow level project scientist in Astrobiology at the European Space Agency. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I knew that I wanted a science career when I entered university, I just wasn’t sure of the exact area. I picked out studying for a bachelor’s degree in environmental science because it was so broad, there were lots of areas to explore. Eventually I got interested in plant biology and its relationship with environmental radiation, which later formed the subject of my PhD thesis. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I’ve never been a morning person, but with a nice cup of coffee and the promise of catching up with my excellent peers at work, I can get going on what’s really important at the moment and that is carrying out research in space! 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I’m a firm believer that you cannot pour from an empty cup, and self-care is a priority. How can anyone expect you to perform your best if you don’t treat yourself right? Sometimes stressful days at work are unavoidable. As a countermeasure, I always schedule time away from work, usually to ride my horse and leave any stress at the barn door. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I don’t have a single role model. Instead, I am constantly inspired by those around me. Working for ESA means I don’t have to look very far to find exceptional scientists and engineers to engage with. I am also a big fan of using Twitter for finding other inspirational people to connect with! This includes artists and poets. Creativity and science are highly complementary. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I would advise myself that everybody starts somewhere and that would have helped some nerves back in the early days where I began presenting my work. Practice over the years has actually turned public speaking into something I actively seek to do. Positive mindset = positive outcome. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Everyone has strengths. Take as long as you need to find yours. Don’t compare your rate of progress to anyone else, there’s only one “you” and you are actually the best at being that! Above all, make sure that whatever it is you’re doing, even if it’s a difficult subject, it is one that you enjoy. 8. How do you measure your success? I set micro-goals that are easier to achieve instead of long term harder ones. That way, it’s pretty easy to succeed regularly. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Research/Exobiology 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? You can connect with me @DrCaplin on Twitter.
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Hi! My name is Adana Llanos Wilson, although professionally I go by Adana Llanos. I am a molecular and cancer epidemiologist and Assistant Professor at Rutgers School of Public Health. My research focuses on cancers that disproportionately affect minorities and medically underserved populations. The objective of my research program is to understand the molecular and sociobiological mechanisms that cause poorer cancer outcomes among these groups. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I was always good in math and science and figured that I would ultimately pursue a medical degree to become the first doctor in my family. While I eventually did become the first doctor in my family, I realized along the way that medical school was not the right path for me. As an undergraduate student at Howard University, I majored in biology (and minored in chemistry). After graduating, I applied to medical school unsuccessfully and thought I would take a gap year to study for the MCAT and reapply. During the summer after my graduation, I was offered a fellowship to pursue a PhD and couldn’t pass up the offer. So I applied to the doctoral program in genetics and human genetics, which the fellowship covered, allowing me to pursue my doctoral studies. This led me to my interests in cancer research. During my doctoral program, my advisor, the late Dr. Verle Headings, suggested I reach out to Dr. Peter Shields at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown. Upon meeting him and discussing my research interests, Dr. Shields invited me to join his lab for my dissertation research. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Knowing that my research might help someone, especially someone that looks like me, is what gets me out of bed every morning. I also really enjoy mentoring and advising students interested in pursuing careers in STEM and/or in biomedical fields. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? My personal cure for stress is meditation, massages, traveling, and talking to my therapist. I think mental health is wealth! I can’t think of one particular story, but there are times when I experience “impostor syndrome” but I keep reminding myself that God has given me a particular set of gifts that require me to work hard and use those gifts to make a difference. I believe that I am able to do that through my research and by mentoring aspiring scientists and public health professionals. I would also add that it is important to always believe in yourself. “No one is you and that is your superpower!” 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I have many role models, including my mother and grandmothers, who inspire me to keep working hard even in difficult times. Professionally, my role model is Dr. Lucile Adams-Campbell, who is a world renowned epidemiologist and has been my mentor for over 10 years. Dr. Adams-Campbell was one of my mentors during my postdoctoral fellowship years and is someone whose career I admire. And she truly gives excellent advice. It’s also worth noting, Dr. Adams-Campbell was the first mentor I ever had that is a Black woman. And she is one of a kind! 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? The one thing I would say to a younger me is that you are stronger than you know and your work will speak for itself. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Never doubt yourself, your intelligence and talents, or your place in STEM. Find yourself a good mentor that can relate to you on both professional AND personal levels. Keeping working hard and your work will speak for itself. 8. How do you measure your success? My main measure of success is in my ability to set goals and achieve them. Once a goal has been achieved, I work on achieving the next one. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? Here is a link to my current faculty profile: https://sph.rutgers.edu/concentrations/biostatistics-epidemiology/faculty-member.php?id=61231 You can also find me on Twitter, where I try to post updates about my research: @AdanaLlanos 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter: @AdanaLlanos LinkedIn: Adana Llanos, PhD, MPH
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Jillian Wise, PhD. I am a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School-The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. I am working on researching the genomics of cancer as it relates to resistance to therapies and immunology. Also, I am a Founding Member of TIME’S UP Healthcare. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? My original goal was to be a medical oncologist. However, during my university years, I realized that much of curative research happens in laboratories. After doing a summer internship in a cancer research laboratory, I was hooked! I thrived on intellectual freedom, exploration and the impact on patients. During my first postdoc, I realized that massive data accumulation started to be necessary in research. I had no computer analytics skills. So, I decided to do a second postdoctoral research fellow in computational analytics/bioinformatics. I would never have foreseen myself coding. However, I am in awe and floored by the exploration which is achievable in genomics given the resources gained from the human genome atlas and computer science. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? Curiosity. When that fails, I remember the many times someone has thanked me and described how cancer has affected their lives. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I find exercise is my best stress management. It requires time not thinking about said stressor and the endorphin release is good for my mood. I am also a fan of traveling; it offers multiple perspectives; including how big the world is and that many people are out there trying to succeed at similar goals. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I think I have many role models for different aspects of my life: my career, motherhood, life-style, etc. There is not one person who has all the same challenges as myself and even the best of role models has faced challenges beyond my own. In science, I have many including: Sara Seager, Felipe Samaniego, Ralph Steinman and Resa Lewiss. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I do wish, when I was younger, I had learned to take my love of science beyond the enjoyment of the basic school program. There are so many opportunities to make science a hobby or join programs to study it outside of school hours, which I was unaware of. I think I would have had a better perspective of the multiple ways science is integrated and utilized outside the classroom. I believe this would have led to more successful academic applications. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Don’t be put off by failure, only of how you deal with it. Try to integrate your favorite subjects into your life outside of school. Go look up all the cool careers involving coding, science, biology, and all of your interests. Try and shadow people...there is so much out there beyond the stereotypical choices! 8. How do you measure your success? My own happiness 9. Where can we find out more about your work? I have a few articles on pubmed, there is also some publically available lectures. 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Twitter: Jillianmcwise Linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/jillian-wise-ph-d-95483166/
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? My name is Ainara Sistiaga and I am a molecular geoarchaeologist. I study the lipids (fats) that survive in ancient rocks and artifacts to better understand past climate and human history. I work as a researcher in the University of Copenhagen and MIT. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I always liked history and human evolution, the mysteries of our history were my passion as a kid, but also liked a lot nature and Earth history. In college I decided to study history, with a major in Prehistory. From my freshman year I joined a archaeological excavation on Neanderthals. There I discovered you can actually combine history and geology by studying the past climate through the analysis of archaeological sediments. In those sediments I discovered the presence of molecular markers of Neanderthal diet, and this finding actually defined my path towards the molecular study of archaeological sediments and feces. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? I think there is always a part of your job that you don’t like, in my case is data analysis. I love field work and I really enjoy the lab work, but data analysis is quite boring. However, this eureka moment when you realise you have found something very cool is what makes me jump of the bed every morning. The creativity part of this job is what I really enjoy. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? I love to swim and exercise, I think keeping a healthy life and mental health is essential to survive this academic environment. When things get complicated I breathe and go for a swim. Learn how to deal with rejection is very important in this field, when you get a manuscript rejected, a fellowship or a grant, it is quite devastating because there is a lot of work and hope invested in it, but sometimes better opportunities come after, it is not the end of the world even if it feels like it. Experiments often don’t work but we learn from that and do better next time. Being resilient is a big skill in Science. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I guess all the women that have been crucial at every step of my life are role models for me, especially my mother and grandmother. Professionally I really admire the work and strength of Lynn Margulis and Mary Leakey. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I think I will advise myself to do not fret that much about the major of field I chose when I went to college. I did history and then liked organic chemistry and molecular biology so I decided to transition towards those fields. Everything you learn is enriching you and there is always time and opportunities to change fields. The change might not be easy but it is not impossible, just enjoy the journey. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Be curious, good colleague and don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. 8. How do you measure your success? I guess in academia we measure success with publications, but actually getting invitations to inspire young girls it feels pretty much like success :) 9. Where can we find out more about your work? If you google Ainara Sistiaga you can find some of the media coverage of my work and most of my published work can be found in google scholar or researchgate. 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? I am less active in social media than I would like to be, but I have a professional twitter account @AinaraSistiaga , and I am also in Linkedin, although I use it less than twitter.
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Shelly Miller, I am a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Colorado Boulder. I teach and conduct research on urban air pollution 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I decided I wanted to be a Professor my Junior year in college. I knew I was good at, and loved learning about, math, so I decided to get a PhD in applied math. but then I quickly realized that I wanted to do something more applied, so eventually wound up in environmental engineering 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? my huge long list of things to get done, wanting to study new and interesting air quality problems, by graduate students and students in my class, my amazing colleagues, teaching environmental engineers and motivating them to continue their education so that they can be our new generation of engineers solving very complex problems 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Honestly I pray, I talk to my best friend and sister, and I go to hot yoga. A Glass of wine once in a while helps too. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? My Mom, my first female professor ever in college, my colleague in my office, I have loads of them! 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? Failure helps you find your way. 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Do not compare yourself to anyone but yourself - you are unique and you be you. Engineering is for everybody and it feels good to use your brain to solve problems and make the world a better place. Be kind, be persistent, and sit in the front row. 8. How do you measure your success? Just a couple are by how many students write me a letter to say hi and tell me what they have been up to, even after they leave the University, and by numbers of papers I write and publish with students every year. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? shellym80304.com 10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you? Yes @ShellyMBoulder
1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do? Hi everyone, my name is Juita Martinez and I am a 3rd year PhD student. My current research aims to better understand the effects of coastal restoration on Louisiana's brown pelican population. Coastal Louisiana is sometimes known as a “shifting coastline”. This shift is due to erosion, sea level rise and a decrease in sediment input has led to rapid land loss across the coast. A brown pelican heavily relies on this degrading habitat to raise their young and not much is known about how human influence will change how this use this habitat. 2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I always knew I wanted to work with animals but for a majority of my life I was convinced I was going to be a vet. As an undergraduate I started as a Zoology major (pre-vet) but during my sophomore year I was accepted into an NSF REU program which changed my entire career path. From then on, I left any change of being a vet behind and focuses on gaining as much research experience as I could. I also became a tutor and a supplemental instructor at my undergraduate university. I had to find a way to combine both my love for teaching and conducting research which is why I am currently earning my PhD. 3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings? The thought that maybe I am/can make a difference in closing the gap between how the general public views wildlife and the importance of preserving habitat for them is enough to get me excited for everyday in the field. In addition to that I honestly just enjoy what I do every day! I would have never imagined myself in the position that I am in today as a little kid living out my dreams and really working side by side with wildlife. 4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Finding an awesome group of friends is my personal cure to stress. Since I am currently a graduate student most of my friends and I are in the same “grad school boat” which sometimes (most times) can feel like it’s sinking and being able to vent and hang out with people who can relate it the best feeling and makes for a great support system. A more expensive and extensive cure for me is to explore a new place whether that be in a new country or just a new state I find traveling to be the best way for me to reground myself. Even planning my next trip will instantly destress me. So, I just started my last semester of classes and I was feeling extremely overwhelmed – probably because this means I am closer to running out of funding and graduating. I last minute decided to host a game night with my friends, and it was the best idea. For a good 5 hours my brain didn’t have to think about my to-do list or preparing for anything but instead living in the moment. Take a break it will make you a better scientist. 5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? I’ve had many role models throughout the years. From an amazing high school biology teacher to fellow students, mentors/scientist and the best bosses I could have ever asked for. 6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time? I used to be a real pushover and would never go outside of my comfort zone! So, I would tell my younger self to stand up for what you want and take the risks! “Risk is not just part of life. It is life. The place between your comfort zone and your dream is where life takes place. It’s the high anxiety zone but it’s also where you discover who you are.” - Nick Vujicic 7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM? Experience & who you know matters just as much/more than maintain a 4.0 GPA. Good grades are important don’t get me wrong, but they are not everything. Be your own advocate! STEM isn’t everything & change is okay it means you’re growing 8. How do you measure your success? I measure my success by accomplishing my goals and by how far I have traveled. 9. Where can we find out more about your work? You can find updates on my twitter and IG @juitamartinez and My website: https://juitamartinez.weebly.com/
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