Women in STEM: Gabby

Immunology PhD Student Gabby

My sixth guest is the incredible immunologist, dog lover, fashion passionate (and much more), Gabby.

Hi gablovestcells! First of all would you like to tell us something about you?

Hi!  My name is Gabby Huizinga and I am a 22 year old scientist originally from Wyoming, Michigan, USA.  I obtained my B.S. in Microbiology with an additional major in Genomics and Molecular Genetics from Michigan State University in May 2019.  I am currently a 1st year PhD student in Immunology at the University of Michigan, which I started in August 2019.

When did you start your YouTube and Instagram accounts? How did you get the idea?

I actually started my YouTube channel in high school where I focused more on beauty and fashion videos. As I matured through college, I started enjoying posting vlogs and lifestyle videos. Now in graduate school I hope to continue posting vlogs to show what the life of a scientist is really like, as well as posting videos about planning, goal setting, and life in academia. Eventually I may also post some beauty or fashion videos again because it is also fun to be creative in that space.

For my Instagram, my account actually started off as a planning/note taking inspiration account. Some of my old posts are still available if you are curious. I found that my followers started to become more curious about my undergrad research projects, so I started posting more of that content. Eventually I changed my planning/note taking style, so I decided to take the plunge and become a full science communication account.  I had no idea that this wonderful Instagram community existed and I’m so happy I found it!

Can you tell us something about how you balance work and private life? 

My dog really helps me balance my work and my private life. I know that I can’t stay in lab for longer than 9 hours at a time because he needs to be fed or let out. He helps me stay efficient in the lab and prioritize what needs to be done. When I’m at home, he is the BEST study buddy.  He will curl up next to me while I read, write, analyze data, and study for exams. He is also great about telling me when I need to take a break and we’ll play, take a walk, or head over to the dog park.  My dog makes sure that I get out and exercise and laugh every day and I am so thankful for him.

During your University studies how many women were in course? Why in your opinion?

During my bachelors I think my classes were about 50/50 women/men. Michigan State is home to two medical schools, a veterinary school, and a nursing school, so I think there were a lot of successful women in STEM around to guide us and keep us interested in science even when it got tough

In my 1st year cohort, we have 3 men and 3 women!  University of Michigan has a lot of student organizations aimed at getting young girls and underrepresented minorities interested in science.  I know that was one of the things I found appealing about the program and I think the other girls also felt that.

Have you ever felt harassed or being kept apart as a scholar because you are a woman?

Honestly, no. I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors that have uplifted me and inspired me and I hope this continues throughout my graduate education.

How did you become passionate about science? 

I became interested in science when I was in elementary school when I wanted to become a veterinarian. Throughout middle school and high school I volunteered at a local veterinary clinic and a cat shelter. In undergrad I was a part of the Pre-Veterinary Medical Association and attended seminars and workshops aimed for future veterinary professionals. I was extremely interested in medicine and how the body works.  When I was starting to think about ways to improve my future vet school application, I knew immediately that I wanted to try research. I’d always been curious about how a lab actually works and how research gets done. 

After that first summer of my research project, I knew that a PhD was the right path for me. There was always something new in the lab to do every day, more papers to read, new techniques to learn, and with each new piece of data I was able to ask more questions.  It was unlike anything I’d experienced in my veterinary experience.  That following year I started to really get involved in the research community at Michigan State and now I’m here!

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

I can talk a little bit about it!  In my program we do anywhere from 3-5 research rotations in different labs before we start on our thesis lab.  I’m planning to do 3 rotations and I think after that I’ll be able to decide on my thesis lab.  Last semester I rotated through two labs: one studied chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and the other studied immunometabolism in adipose tissue.  My current research rotation focuses on lung immunobiology and my rotation project is looking at MRSA infections in obese, diabetic mice.  Overall my research interests are in host-pathogen interactions and translational immunology, so my thesis project will likely involve those two factors.

Thank you so much for your time. Lastly, can you give any advice to girls interested in stem?

Thank you so much for having me!  My advice is simply to go for it.  Try out anything you find interesting!  I had no idea how much I would love research until I tried it and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Gabby on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/GabbyHuizinga

Gabby on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gablovestcells/

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