You can find her on instagram @what_the_fari
- The Pennsylvania State University, BSc. in Biomedical Engineering, May 2017
- Brown University, ScM. in Biomedical Engineering, May 2020
Current Job Title: Graduate Student Researcher at Brown University, Graduate Coordinator at Global Brown Center for International Students
What experience first got you interested in science and is that field the same one you went on to pursue?
I have always had an inclination towards science, especially Chemistry. However, I first learned about Biomedical Engineering when I was in 7th grade, and was reading about Dr. Jeff Morgan’s work on artificial ovary. I thought it was the coolest thing ever! I ended up pursuing Biomedical Engineering, and at present, I have Dr. Jeff Morgan as my co-advisor at Brown.
Tell me about some people who helped or inspired you along the way, in your early training and later in your career.
My father is my biggest inspiration when it comes to hard work. The person who lead me to the article about artificial ovary is my very good friend and WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Dave Bautista. He wrote about his ex-wife’s battle with ovarian cancer in his book, and I wanted to know more about the disease. It eventually led me to the work of Dr. Jeff Morgan. Dave has been my inspiration as well, since he is also a hard worker, and passionate, like my father. Both Papa and Dave have supported me and given me the strength to keep going, especially when going gets difficult.
In terms of my field, Jeff has been my scientific inspiration. I have always wanted to work for him, and today I am working for him! It’s a surreal feeling whenever I interact with him because he is incredibly smart! I also owe a lot to Lauren, my graduate student mentor at Penn State, and Dr. Lance Lian, my undergrad research mentor. Lance trusted me with a project when I was an undergraduate student, and his faith in me certainly inspired me to be a responsible scientist. When I was in the industry, I had the honor to be mentored by Dr. Luai Huleihel. Luai personally trained me for various experiments, and he empowered me with skills (and shared some of his lab tricks)- both experimental and interpersonal skills- that have helped me become a more confident scientist. At present, I am learning a lot from Jeff and Dr. Jonghwan Lee (my primary advisor) at Brown. Jonghwan is a very hardworking, smart and open-minded scientist. He always pushes me to think outside the box, and never limits me to try out my experimental ideas. I am learning a lot about time and project management from Jonghwan, as well.
Can you tell me about any moments of doubt you had as a student or early in your career and how you dealt with it?
Self-doubt is inevitable, especially when you are an experimental scientist. Bad data often leads to self-doubt. I initially used to be really afraid of bad data. It wasn’t until my first day at ACell Inc. (where I worked for a year, after graduating from Penn State) that Dr. Nikhil Gheewala told me, “Bad data is still data, and always report bad data.” And as I kept working there, I became comfortable with that statement. That statement, to date, helps me overcome moments of doubt and downfall, when it comes to experiments.
Can you share two or three surprising twists or turns in your early scientific training and your later career path.
I still consider myself a young scientist, who is waiting for her ‘eureka’ moments. At this point, I don’t think I have very many ‘surprising twists or turns’ to talk about.
Can you give some examples of how you have incorporated your non scientific interests into your work.
Well, I am an avid communicator and people person. When you are a scientist, you are often perceived as a quiet, ‘in your own zone’ person. However, wherever I have worked, I have tried to often communicate my scientific ideas to those around me- whether they’re from a STEM field or not. Those conversations often led to questions that made me a better thinker and scientist. I also love music. I have my ‘experiment’, ‘data analysis’ and ‘report writing’ playlists that I tune into whenever I am working on the designated tasks. And I utilize my patience and focus from golf, whenever I am doing something intricate, such as pipetting a qPCR plate.
Is there some advice you could share from your own experience to help someone with a science degree who is just starting off on their own career path.
My biggest advice would be for one to identify what they are passionate about, and just go for it! When I realized I was passionate about helping people and STEM, I looked for intersections that fit my passions well. I was fortunate that I found Biomedical Engineering through Jeff’s work. If you are passionate about what you do, you will be excited about your work, and they will no longer bring you down. And when going gets difficult, always look at back at why you came into this field. Remind yourself of the days when you wanted to be where you are today, and keep pushing. Dream big, and keep chasing your dreams.