About Me

I always thought I was going to be a scientist. In 8th grade, my amazing biology teacher introduced me to the amazing field of the life sciences when she introduced us to genetics by breeding fruit flies. I stayed after school to interbreed the weird looking flies. I ended up with the most bizarre flies, including some without wings. After that, I was hooked.

I grew up in the Bay Area of northern California. Then, I went to college at University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I earned my bachelor's in molecular biology. I started working in a lab as a freshman, washing dishes and racking tips. Soon, I got involved in research projects. I spent a summer as an intern at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, studying how H. pylori causes ulcers. I loved it. Soon, I was in another lab, doing my senior thesis on a process called "nonsense-mediated mRNA decay", where the cell rapidly degrades a mutant mRNA trancript before it can be translated, thereby preventing a build-up of non-functional truncated protein products.

After earning my bachelor's, I entered the Ph.D. program of Biomedical Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. I studied obesity and fatty acid metabolism. Specifically, I examined how fat gets transported into fat cells by a particular protein called "Fatty Acid Transport Protein 1" (FATP1). 5 years later, I received my Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology. 

I loved school. I couldn't get enough. However, I wasn't really enthusiastic about becoming a professor. I watched my professors give up their hobbies and spend nights and weekends in the lab, instead of their families. They spent oodles of hours doing administrative business, traveling to conferences, sitting on committees, and writing grant after grant after grant. I never saw a professor getting their hands dirty at the lab. That was the fun stuff! I was pretty sure I didn't want to be a professor.

I thought I would pursue a career in biotech. I'd heard to make myself more marketable, I should do a postdoctoral fellowship. I joined a lab at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and earned a fellowship from the American Heart Association, where I studied the role of inflammation and the immune system in heart disease. The research was fascinating but the day-to-day drudgery wore me down. I experienced the daily rejection of experiments not working out, results that made no sense, and unpublishable, negative data. The disappointed sighs of my professor and smirks from my colleagues ate at my self-esteem. I was tired of killing mice day after day, and spending hours upon hours pinning out mice aorta under the dissecting microscope with tweezers and insect pins. My hands hurt, my eyes were blurry, and my head was about to explode from the monotony. I think the isolation of the lab got to me the most. I missed interacting and collaborating with other people!

I started interviewing for jobs in biotech in 2010, just as the housing bubble burst, and the economy tanked. Lay-offs were pandemic. Hiring new employees was now unheard of. I spent an entire year networking, going on informational interviews, sending off resumes and cover letters, and going to one grueling interview after another, only to be rejected each and every time. In addition to the disappointment of all the doors slamming, I became increasingly aware of a knot of dread in the pit of my stomach every time I came one step closer to getting my "dream" job in biotech. Something was wrong. This was my wake-up call.

I'd always been told I'd make a good teacher. I liked people, and I was good at explaining things. But I was also told I should teach, only as a last resort. Because once I headed down the teaching path, the scientist door would be more difficult to return to. My family, my teachers, my professors, everyone had always pushed me to reach the highest rung on the ladder. Being an overachiever myself, this was fine...to a point. I began discovering achieving for the sake of achieving was silly. Knowing myself and actualizing my goals, not others goals for me, was critical. I decided to take the plunge and try teaching. Looking back, I'm glad the economy crashed. I'm not sure I would have ever been brave enough to change careers otherwise. 

I began tutoring and coaching for an after-school program, "Girls on the Run". The goal for Girls on the Run is to inspire middle school-age girls to embrace an active lifestyle and learn that running is fun. I LOVED it. Soon, I earned my first teaching job at Fusion Academy in Mission Viejo, a small, alternative private school for students who weren't successful in the traditional public school setting. The hours were long, the pay was horrible, and the students had heart-breaking stories, but I quickly fell in love with the school, the other teachers, the students, and my job. After teaching at Fusion for a year, I knew teaching was the right choice. 

Recently, I quit my job at Fusion to go back to school and earn my credential in biology. I'm now a student teacher at Cal State San Marcos. This time next year, I hope to be teaching my own biology classes! I'm excited about learning more about the career of education in the life sciences. My goal is to inspire students about the exciting field of biology.

No comments:

Post a Comment