What is your scientific background?
I was trained in Materials Science and Engineering (BS) and Biomedical Engineering (Ph.D.) at the University of Florida. My postdoctoral fellowship work involved creating dynamically tunable materials systems for studying how cells respond to their local environment. Although it is not always common in academia, my training also includes 4 years working in a start-up company that makes medical devices. This experience was an incredible way to quickly learn project and personnel management, new communication strategies, how to resourcefully budget time and research dollars and how to translate basic research ideas into products.
Which topic are you working on at the moment? Why did you choose this topic and how do you think you’ll make a difference?
Now I’m working as an Assistant Professor in the Lung Fibrosis and Regeneration Program in the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Colorado, Anschutz. My research group is developing new materials that can be used to better model lung tissue outside of the body so that we can learn more about how lung diseases progress and how to treat them. I choose this topic after meeting with an incredible and collaborative group of clinical and basic research faculty members who are passionate about helping cure lung disease. The division has an innovative vision for how to approach challenges in healthcare and I’m excited to be a part of it!
Did you ever doubt your abilities as a scientist? Why? How did you handle these situations/feelings?
Yes, absolutely! I have doubted my abilities as a scientist in several situations, including work experiences in which I had a manager that did not trust my expertise or in situations where there were differences in how I was treated versus a male colleague. It’s important for us to talk about the unintended biases that can cause some of these feelings so that we can work together to create a supportive environment for everyone.
Besides your scientific interests, what are your personal interests?
When I’m not busy thinking way too hard about science, I like to exercise the creative part of my brain. I throw pottery and embellish it with hand-knitted fabrics dipped in clay that creates funky textures. I made my own backpacking tent and I’m almost done making the last set of curtains for my new house! I’m also an avid cyclist. It’s an incredible privilege to ride bikes through the gorgeous state of Colorado.
If you had the option to give advice to a younger version of yourself, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things! Go study abroad, introduce yourself to strangers, try crazy foods and collect new experiences.