Women in STEM: Michelle

Michelle in the lab

Today I have the pleasure to publish my interview with Michelle, a biologist, an artist, a nutrition student and a cephalops’ fan.

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

Hi, I’m Michelle! I’m in my early 20s and in the second year of my MSc in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. I completed my BSc in Biology with a focus towards micro- and molecular biology, and Minor in Human Nutrition from the University of Waterloo in June 2018.  

When did you start your Instagram account? How did you get the idea?

I started my Instagram account right before I started my MSc (August 2018). I’m a very visual learner so throughout my BSc I was always drawing figures and little doodles to help me remember concepts. Back when Tumblr was huge, I made an account where I could post about new concepts that I learned each week – I regret not being very committed to it. But going into my MSc, I wanted to share all the facts that I found fun or interesting when I was studying in a visual way. I’m so lucky that I am able to combine my two passions: science and art. And that there are people out there that are willing to listen and see what I have to offer to the science communication community. Eventually my account has grown to showing others and documenting what I do in the lab and my day-to-day life as a MSc student. The Instagram community is so supportive and inclusive. 

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

I’ve learned to recognize my limits and I strongly prioritize my mental and physical health. For example, I refuse to pull an all-nighter because I need a good night’s rest to function and think clearly. Or I make sure that I schedule at least 1-2 workouts a week along with making nutrient-dense food choices. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can almost treat my lab work as a 9-5 job and at the end of the day it’s ‘me time’. Self-care is really important. Do what you need to do to reset and feel refreshed for the next day.  

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

My BSc program in Biology was pretty evenly split 50/50 for male to females. In my current department in Nutritional Sciences, I would say that it’s 30/70 for male to females – so I’m lucky to be surrounded by some amazing female researchers. I’ve thought about why there are more females in the department, I suppose it has something to do with nutrition being a stereotypical women’s profession because it involves ‘food’. Ahaha, I’m really not sure.  

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

Honestly, no. I’m from a pretty open-minded community so I never felt like becoming a scholar wasn’t an option.  

How did you become passionate about science? 

It’s hard to say. As a young child, my list of professions included teacher and veterinarian. Eventually looking at big animals as a vet become looking at tiny bacteria under the microscope as a microbiologist. I have a natural (albeit maybe annoying curiosity) for how things work or why things do the things they do – so I’m always asking questions. And that’s the beauty of science, there’s always another question you can ask. 

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

As mentioned in an earlier question, I am currently finishing up my MSc. My research focuses on the effects of flaxseed and it’s oil, lignan, and fiber components on the gut microbiome and surrounding tissue structures. On the side, I’m a Teaching Assistant for two different Introductory Nutrition courses. I like to balance my science career with my art so I manage my own Etsy shop where I sell stickers of my science artwork, I’m on the Editorial team of my department’s student-led magazine as well as the Mentorship Representative of our Student Association, and the Layout / Designer for the Health Science Inquiry.  

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

Do it. Take the time to learn what area of STEM that you enjoy the most and don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing it. It’s easy to get caught up with society’s expectations and someone else’s dream but at the end of the day you need to do it for yourself. 

Have a look to Michelle’s profiles:

Etsy : https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/MyPetCephalopod

Instagram : @mypetcephalopod 

Twitter : @MyPetCephalopod

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