Blog > STEMStories

#STEMStories: Kiara Sofia, Neuro PhD, USA

#STEMStories: Kiara Sofia, Neuro PhD, USA

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

I’m a 4th year Neuroscience PhD student at Baylor College of Medicine and a happy member of the Daoyun Ji lab. I study the neuroplasticity underlying contextual fear memory in the schaffer collateral synapse in mice via tetrode recording. In other words, I study the changes in specific connections in a region of the brain called the hippocampus (i.e. region highly implicated in episodic memory and spatial navigation) that enable mice to form a memory that associates a context with an aversive experience. My main question is: how do these hippocampal synapses (i.e. connections between neurons) change as the animal acquires contextual fear memory and undergoes subsequent mnemonic processes (e.g. memory retrieval, sleep-mediated consolidation)?

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 I wanted to do this since 11th grade so I can say I’d been aiming for it for a long time. I will admit, there was a lot of idealism at the beginning of this goal which has slowly matured with knowledge and experience into a much more realistic drive.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

It is fascinating work, but, in those days where that won’t cut it, I guess a sense of responsibility keeps me going when nothing else will. I committed to this so I have to see it through, even when I don’t feel like it. I will also promise myself to be extra compassionate and easy-going when I’m having a hard time getting out of bed because I know that beating myself up will usually leave me less willing than if I treat myself gently.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

Recently, I suffered through an anxiety attack. I am not a naturally anxious person, so it was very alien and scary to me. I got through it because of my partner; he helped me breathe deeply and calm down. Usually, socializing with someone close to me helps me de-stress significantly which is why I regularly do it, even though I would not describe myself as an extrovert. Regular exercise also helps regulate my mood which is why I heartily recommend it.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

Right now, my parents are my role models. They are kind, honest, and hard-working. If I feel like I’m measuring up to that, then I feel like I’m on the right track.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

Ask for help when you need it and take every small task seriously.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Persevere and always ask for help when you need it.
  2. Try to stay curious and keep a support system.
  3. Remember that everybody’s STEM journey is unique.

8. How do you measure your success?

Success depends on the day. Sometimes a successful day means I got out of bed and managed to go to work and stay hydrated. But, in the long-term, I would measure success by how much closer I am to achieving my personal goals.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

Visit my lab’s page  or read this article.

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

I would like to be found on Twitter: @kiara_bellido or LinkedIn.