I grew up in Queens, NY, USA. As a little girl, I enjoyed watching insects, spiders and snails for hours. I wanted to know where they were going, what they were doing, and why they were doing it. If I had known what a behavioral ecologist was, I might have guessed that I would become one someday.
The aim of my work is, in a broad sense, to understand functions of animal behaviors. I am currently testing hypotheses about behaviors that may help predators that hunt across the air-water interface (e.g., herons) to see their submerged prey, and to keep from being seen by their prey.
As a member of 2 underrepresented groups in STEM, I am aware of some of the barriers that exist in these fields. One such barrier is a problem of representation. So I purposefully engage in research in locations where I am visible, and can interact with members of the public who are interested in my work.
Also, having had the experience of almost dropping out of high school in the 9th grade, I feel compelled to encourage young people with similar struggles. I participate in scientific open house events, speak at high schools, and mentor undergraduates. Further, I started Ask-A-Scientist, which is a program where graduate students from a broad spectrum of backgrounds answer a wide variety of questions from local teens in an underserved high school. The questions often pertain to pursuing higher education, pursuing science, and overcoming adversity.
Ask-a-Scientist is a partnership between graduate-level scientists and several high school classrooms in a local underserved neighborhood. I started the program two years ago by recruiting graduate students to answer teens’ questions about conducting science for a living, the path to college/grad school, and overcoming adversity along the way. No related question is off limits. This is important because when we are transparent and willing to share our truth and our experiences, it can help others going through similar circumstances.
Attributes that set Ask-a-Scientist apart from other outreach programs include:
- The evidence-based format of the program aligns with Hope Theory, by presenting scientists as regular people, and highlighting a wide range of personal (and attainable) pathways toward scientific careers.
- The majority of the program is directed by the high school students. After a brief (<15-min.) presentation by a graduate student, high school students are encouraged to ask questions about anything related to graduate students’ personal or professional journeys. Teens are trusted to guide conversations with their own needs and curiosities.
In only two years, Ask-a-Scientist has made a tangible impact:
“Ask-a-Scientist has helped [our students] to consider a future beyond their present circumstances. Planning a future requires a sense of hope, control, and possibility. The… graduate students have not simply shared their research, but they’ve shared a vulnerable peek into their lives and paths. They shared the messy parts and let HS students see into a recent past that looks a lot like the teens’ present realities.” – Anon.
If you are hoping to start an Ask-a-Scientist program in your community, please contact me!
This is a contact page with some basic contact information and a contact form.