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 always has been to run my own research group studying virus-host interactions. Finally reaching this position will allow me not only to pursue my passion for research, but also to encourage other underrepresented students to consider careers in science. As always, I will continue to pursue opportunities to share science with the next generation. Maybe one day they will remember it as a well-timed interaction!