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#STEMStories: Sam, Postdoctoral Fellow, Canada

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

I’m Sam, I am a postdoctoral fellow at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. I am working on developing a test that can identify which pregnancies are at risk of delivering prematurely. To do this, I measure modification made to DNA called DNA methylation and use machine learning (mathematical models) to identify patterns in the DNA methylation that are associated with a premature delivery.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

Ending up in this career was a journey of experiences and opportunities where I just followed what work I most enjoyed. I definitely did not think that science was a career I wanted to do. Neither of my parents attended University, and I didn’t know what a PhD was until I was completing my undergrad. I became interested in science in high school and found that I really enjoyed learning about genetics. I followed that interest and made decisions that allowed my to continue studying it as long as possible.

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

The most major thing is the feeling that I have the opportunity to contribute to science and maybe that will make a difference one day. Day to day, I love learning new things, and getting better at them. I also love that my job allows me to work with amazing people and learn from them.

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 put a lot of effort into enforcing working hours for myself. While I love what I do, I know that working myself to the point where I’m exhausted doesn’t make me more productive. This is particularly true in times of high stress. I love to hike, so I will take the time to plan a day to do a big 10-20km hike. I got a dog the first year of my postdoc and this has helped immensely in making sure I do that, and do daily walks. I also like to travel and destress by planning my next trip. When stressed, I always make sure I treat myself as well. Sometimes that means I get a fancy coffee, or get ingredients to make a really nice dinner. Essentially, schedule time to spend on yourself guilt free.

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

I have many, but collectively I have been fortunate to work with many female mentors who I look up to immensely. Being able to see someone like you succeed is very inspiring and motivational to keep working and maybe one day you will get there too.

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

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent - Eleanor Roosevelt

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

  1. Grades do not reflect your research ability or your passion to a subject
  2. Get to know the people you work with, makes day to day more fun and starts your network.
  3. Don’t try to rush to the next phase of your career. Try to gather as much experience from where you are now, and enjoy it.

8. How do you measure your success?

If I can answer “Yes” to the question “Am I happy?” then I would consider that success

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

Google scholar link- https://scholar.google.ca/citations?user=wdjQgMkAAAAJ&hl=en

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

Twitter - @SamanthaLWilson