By Juliet Snyder, '15
Growing up, my friends and family modeled themselves after the characters they saw on television—from my brother at the age of seven desperately wanting to be a Power Ranger to my girl friends at the age of fourteen wanting to be Desperate Housewives.
The depiction of females on television has an important impact on who young girls later aspire to be. There are four female scientists on television that lend amusement to the college Scientista (in between problem sets of course) and are good role models for those middle school Scientettes as well.
Dr. Temperance Brennan – Bones
Dr. Temperance Brennan, or “Bones,” is a forensic anthropologist based off the character created by Kathy Reichs. Interestingly, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist herself.
Using science, Bones solves seemingly impossible cases with the FBI. The show is incredibly engaging and involves many other great characters--Angela Montenegro (a forensic artist), Dr. Jack Hodgins (an entomologist) and Dr. Camille Saroyan (the head of the Forensic Division at the Jeffersonian Institute and a pathologist). Each character has different strengths and displays different facets of science.
Bones shows some of the eccentricities typically associated with female scientists, such as lacking understanding of certain social graces.
Abigail "Abby" Sciuto – NCIS
Abby is the forensic specialist in NCIS. Hilarious, witty, quirky and Goth, Abby is not only incredibly smart but also full of character. Her skills and knowledge are crucial for solving crimes and investigating the deaths of naval officers.
Although many would point out that Abby’s long pigtails and black platform Doc Martins are not exactly lab protocols, her charm makes up for the lack of realism.
Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz and Amy Farrah Fowler – The Big Bang Theory
Bernadette and Amy are both PhD scientists in The Big Bang Theory – Bernadette with a PhD in microbiology and Amy with a PhD in neuroscience.
The show is hilarious, although the hilarity comes in no small part from the stereotypes of the scientists portrayed. Nonetheless, the Scientistas are hilarious and are great additions to a previously male-dominated scientist cast. In addition, Mayim Bialik, the actress who portrays Amy Farrah Fowler, has a doctorate in neuroscience.
While television producers still seem fascinated with the stereotype of the geeky and socially awkward female scientist, their female scientist characters also portray intelligence and great characteristics that are true of real female scientists.
I found inspiration in Bones’ ability to see both the finite details and bigger picture while solving crimes, and in Abby’s drive and desire to stay true to her style and personality. So for young and “old” Scientistas alike, during those free moments of “vegging” on the couch, feel free to switch on these shows and enjoy.
Who is yourfavorite fictional Scientista? Leave a comment!
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By Juliet Snyder, '15
The deadlines have snuck up on you and have run away for each and every research program you thought you were so smart to bookmark last November. We have all been there – finals and midterms and papers come up. Or perhaps, none of the programs you applied for accepted you. Now what do you do?
The truth is, opportunity has in no way passed you by. While applications and set programs provide structure and welcomed support to the harried college student, there are many other options for Scientistas over the summer.
Research Assistant at a Local University
Although it takes more work and the carefully formatted email, contacting researchers at your local university can be a great option for the summer. Start by looking at the department websites at the local university for researchers who are working on topics you are interested in.
Pick about eight to contact and write them an email. Look out for an article on how to write the perfect research interest email! (Unfortunately, it is a little too long for this article) Tell them of your interest and say you would love to have a conversation with them, offering to talk via Skype or phone.
Volunteer at a Hospital or Aquarium
While this typically involves more dealing with people than zebra fish, volunteering at a hospital or aquarium in your area can give you valuable volunteer experience and people skills. Most hospital and aquarium websites have sections detailing their volunteer opportunities. So simply click away.
Work as an Intern for the Scientista Foundation!
The Scientista Foundation is always looking for a few good women (and men!) to contribute to our team through Business/Fundraising, Web, Social media/marketing, Graphic Design, Writing or Editing. Look under the “Join” tab on scientistafoundation.com for more information.
Volunteer or intern abroad
There are many volunteer programs that offer internships and volunteer opportunities abroad for those seeking medical or research experience. Among those is the organization ProWorld. Although, be aware that many of these groups do require you to pay to cover expenses.
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Dr. Mai Anh Huynh, MD/PhDDr. Mai Anh Huynh, MD/PhD
By Emily Groopman, '14
Though born and raised in Evansville, Indiana, Dr. Mai Anh Huynh is no stranger to Cambridge – whether the American or English version. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she conducted summer research in structural biology at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (Cambridge, UK). After completing an A.B. in Biochemical Sciences, she entered Harvard Medical School’s Health Sciences and Technology Program, and graduated as physician-scientist in 2012, with a PhD in Neurobiology. Currently in her residency in radiation oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Huynh also serves as a Resident Pre-Medical Tutor at Harvard’s Kirkland House. Below, she discusses her choice of an MD/PhD, her experiences while pursuing her dual degree, and her goals for the future.
1. What drew you to pursue an MD/PhD specifically (vs. solely an MD or a PhD)? When did you decide an MD/PhD was right for you?
I have been interested in medicine for as long as I can remember. I always loved science and engaging with other people and to me medicine seemed to be the career I would find both intellectually and personally satisfying. I had not considered the MD/PhD as an option until college. I very much enjoyed my research experiences as an undergrad, in particular my experience in Venki Ramakrishnan's lab in the UK. The opportunity gave me a flavor of what it would mean to pursue research as a career and also showed me the impact one could make on human health through scientific discovery. I felt the combined degree would train me to be both a better physician and a better scientist and hopefully provide a skill set that would allow me to make connections between both worlds.
2. What has been the most challenging aspect of the MD/PhD process? The most rewarding?
The transitions are the toughest part. The mentality and culture of the lab and in the wards are quite different. Inevitably, you will feel rusty either clinically or scientifically as you become more immersed in the different training phases of the program. Transitioning from med school to the uncertainty of the lab as you settle into the PhD is often challenging as the metrics for measuring productivity or personal success can be few and far between. It is hard to watch your classmates move on and graduate without feeling a little left behind. Conversely, the freedom and sense of comfort you develop in lab is hard to leave when returning to the wards, where much of the first two years of med school are a distant memory. Each phase has its own rewards. For me, the human interactions you get through medicine are very motivating and there is a more direct sense of feedback regarding the impact you make on other people's lives. In the lab, the reward is in the process of discovery and the unique satisfaction you might feel in figuring out a process or phenomena that no one else has seen before. Ideally, that discovery will have a larger clinical impact, but on a day-to-day basis, it's easier to measure success in smaller increments and through the excitement of gathering new data.
3. Discuss your choice of research field: what motivated your choice of the field specifically? How did you find your lab?
My research was in neurobiology looking at the transcriptional regulation axon growth and neuronal development with Azad Bonni. Neurobiology is an attractive combination of molecular biology with a frontier of medicine that we still know very little about. The topic was interesting enough to keep me motivated throughout my PhD. I was fortunate to find my mentor through talking with other students who had rotated in his lab. I picked the lab because I felt it would be a good training experience for me and was lucky enough to have a great training experience with a very supportive mentor.
4. What do you like most research? About medicine? How do you see yourself balancing the two as you advance in your career as a physician-scientist?
In research, I like the autonomy and sense of discovery. In medicine, I like making connections with patients and feeling that I am doing my best to take the best care of them as possible. I hope one day to combine the two by pursuing research and a clinical practice that will complement each other. I expect this will be easier for me to envision once I get through residency training and much will also depend on what opportunities arise. My goal is to become an academic radiation oncologist, and I do hope to have time to spend both in the clinic and in the lab in the future.
By Nia Walker, '16
I returned home to New York for spring break and was able to enjoy a change of scenery. That entailed a slower pace from the usual workings of a college environment: sleeping without an alarm clock, reading a classic for leisure rather than for a daunting paper that would count for thirty percent of my final grade, and yes, watching a real life Cinderella tale unfold before my very eyes in the form of a Harvard men’s basketball victory over the highly favored New Mexico team.
After coming back to campus and exchanging spring break stories with my friends, I noticed certain similarities—sleeping in and catching up with old friends for example—and then of course there were differences—the thing each person missed most about spring break and the specific aspects of their spring break that generated the most excitement out of them.
Spring break for me was a reflection, a time to reflect on college and what I would like my time to be after or away from it, and an actual reflection of the different sides of myself. My spring break, my friends’ spring breaks, and your spring break all have this one idea in common, if nothing else.
Reflection, whether conscious or unconscious and wanted or unwanted, unites all great and young thinkers. And it isn’t limited to epiphanic experiences away from school; a great deal of reflection occurs through the extracurriculars we choose to involve ourselves in. Much like your spring break, extracurriculars are not only for stepping away from coursework; they also supplement your academic experience.
So why do your parents and advisors encourage extracurriculars? Why do employers like to see extracurriculars on a resume? And what is it about extracurriculars that make them such a popular topic of discussion among friends and classmates?
Extracurriculars provide a window into your hopes and dreams, interests, and well, just you in general. Sure, they allow you to gain more experience in your chosen field. And yes, they do help you meet new people and make great networking connections. Going beyond that, extracurriculars play a big part in preserving your sanity. They give you the opportunity to learn something new about and express yourself. They also represent uniqueness; most schools offer a wide range of extracurricular activities to support a diverse student body. Extracurriculars showcase your differences and help develop a clearer sense of individuality.
A lot of soul searching and career considerations occur outside the classroom. That makes extracurriculars as important, if not more, as academics. The take away point is that extracurriculars should be taken seriously. The more effort you put into your extracurriculars, the more you will benefit. Many of us accept that extracurriculars are important; it is understanding why they are important to you that will help you get the most out of them and your entire school experience.
Final ScientisTalk of the Semester!
When: 4/25, 6-70pm
Where: Lowell Small Dining Hall
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