Growing up in Detroit, there was little discussion on STEM careers outside of medicine and no one ever mentioned “scientist” as an option for young girls. When I entered college, I thought medicine or engineering were my only choices. To fulfill a requirement, I spent two semesters working in a virology lab studying cancer biology. I was surprised to learn of the complex pathways governing host-pathogen interactions and how studying viruses can clarify mechanisms of cell biology as well. Still, it wasn’t until my final semester that I learned about graduate school or even considered that I could “do science” as a career.
My experience is not uncommon and it feels almost serendipitous that I now have a doctorate in microbiology and can call myself a scientist—an achievement that I attribute greatly to excellent mentorship throughout the years and several well-timed interactions. How many bright, young students will never discover this path because of a lack of exposure? Or cannot imagine themselves as scientists because they don’t see themselves represented in the field?
My ultimate goal is to run my own research group studying virus-host interactions. This will allow me not only to pursue my passion for research, but also to encourage other underrepresented students to consider careers in science. Until then, I am actively pursuing opportunities to share science with the next generation. Maybe one day they will remember it as a well-timed interaction!