Women in STEM: Melanie

Melanie in her lab coat

My 50th guest is Melanie, a passionate neuroscientist, who loves to work in the lab and knows how to take care of herself!

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

Hi! I’m Melanie and I am a neuroscientist. I’m 29, originally from California but pursuing my PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Miami – Miller School of Medicine. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of California Santa Cruz in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 2013, but fell in love with neuroscience research when I worked at Stanford University as a research assistant until 2016 when I decided to pursue my PhD. My current research at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis focuses on finding a cause for multiple sclerosis.

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

I started Instagram at the end of 2019. I would classify myself as an extroverted introvert, so I am still getting used to making videos and talking about myself, research, and science. When I saw others using Instagram as a platform for science communication I loved it! It was refreshing to see interesting material rather than just superficial posts. I hope to celebrate science on my page and get people excited about science and to trust science.

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

Balancing work and private life can be very difficult. Taking time for myself each day is very important. Even if it is just 30 minutes, take time for yourself! I love to go for a nice walk, watch a funny show, read a non-science related book, paint my nails, take a relaxing bath, or do some kind of skincare treatment. When I am writing or doing work from home, I try to do something that will make me happy. This can be as simple as lighting my favorite candle or listening to my favorite playlist/album/artist and it helps make the experience more enjoyable!

Melanie during her free time

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

I have seen that it is a pretty even 50/50 split, which is great to see!

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

Yes, I have definitely felt this throughout my career. It happened more during the start of my career (undergrad and first job) and with men with positions of higher power, but it still happens on occasion. I have taken notice now of when I am being talked over or when my opinions aren’t valued and counteract this by being respectfully assertive. I think this extra confidence comes with time throughout a developing career. I have to say though, I am extremely grateful to the men I have worked closely with throughout my career. Every male coworker I have worked closely with and who have mentored me have been incredibly respectful, genuine, and just all around wonderful people.

How did you become passionate about science?

Science has always compelled me. Bill Nye the Science Guy specifically catalyzed my interest at a young age. However, it was not until a close family member suffered with a debilitating neurodegenerative disease that I realized science could be applied to patient treatments and change lives.

Would you like to talk briefly about your job?

Currently, I am in the final year of my PhD program! I am set to defend my doctoral dissertation and graduate in May 2021. After that I hope to transition from academia to working for a biotechnology company. I hope to have a job either as a scientist, scientific writer, or in science communication.

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

Never let others intimidate you or make you feel like you are incapable of doing something. If you are passionate about a subject enough and take the time to train and work through your failures, you will succeed. I always heard, “Don’t study neuroscience, it’s too difficult” or “Don’t get your PhD, it’s too stressful.” Don’t let others negatively influence what you are capable of!

Melanie enjoying her time in the lab

Follow Melanie on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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