Q: In a couple sentences, tell me about what you do in your work.
A: We are interested in understanding how different organisms interact with microbes. We’re studying the molecular mechanisms that drive associations between bacteria and a wide range of organisms, including other bacteria all the way up to eukaryotes multicell organisms.
Q: What’s your favorite part about being a scientist?
A: The unexpected. We’re really diving into the unknown, so we often spend a lot of time on planning experiments and setting expectations. The best part is when it goes opposite of everything you expect, and you get to learn something even better than you thought you would learn.
Q: At the end of the day, why does your work matter?
A: It matters on multiple levels. On the most fundamental level, we just want to know more about the world around us. I’ve also chosen questions that are also rooted in biomedical questions, so it can hopefully also have an impact on human health. I also view myself as an educator, not only for the students, but really anybody we encounter - to become better scientists and think about the world analytically and rationally. I really enjoy teaching and mentorship. My hope is that students, even if they don’t stay in science, take some of those lessons with them.
Q: In 100 years, what do you want to be remembered for?
A: There is the obvious, which is that we all want to do impactful science with long term impacts. Finding some solution to a biomedical problem would obviously be up there. I also care a lot about equity in general, but especially in science now that I’m in my current role as faculty. I have seen a drop in representation of women and minorities around me as I’ve progressed in my career, and it’s been a real bummer. For example, I’m the faculty sponsor for Women in Life Sciences here. What I would really like to do is contribute to an environment that makes it easier for more people to enjoy science and learn how to be a scientist. I strive to keep my lab diverse and try to go out of my way to mentor people who maybe didn’t come from a “traditional” background. I don’t know if that’s something a lot of people remember you for, but if even just the people in my lab get something out of that, this would be huge for me.
Journalism & Photography Credit: Alexa Racourt