Profession: Training and Outreach Specialist at the Allen Institute
Hometown: Camas, WA
What are you doing now?
I finished my Ph.D. in neuroscience in 2018, along with earning two certificates: neural computation & engineering and science, technology & society studies. I now work at the Allen Institute, a nonprofit that generates and shares open data and tools in the biological sciences, with focus areas in neuroscience, cell biology and immunology. I help connect scientists to resources that benefit their research and develop training programs for those resources. I also work with high school and college educators to apply open data as a teaching tool, which enables students to try real experiments without requiring access to specialized equipment. For fun, I write, play tennis and go to a lot of theatre.
How did you get there?
I went from Pomona directly to the graduate program in neuroscience at the University of Washington. At the time, I thought I might want to teach at a college much like Pomona, and I got involved in community outreach programs, museum programs and classroom teaching for undergraduates and for a UW-affiliated high school program. As I took on more responsibilities in those organizations, I realized that I really enjoyed developing science education and outreach programs. In my current position, I get to do some hands-on teaching, but most of my time is spent developing training programs for scientists and science teachers.
How did Pomona prepare you?
One of the greatest gifts of my Pomona education was interdisciplinary training – for me, in neuroscience and theatre. It’s not just about having experience in and understanding of multiple fields. My faculty mentors and peers also encouraged a deliberate blending of disciplines rather than multiple parallel silos. At Pomona, we’re lucky to have the opportunity to access classes, facilities and faculty across specialties. We’re even more lucky to have a community of thoughtful and supportive people who understand why it’s not just reasonable but absolutely imperative to take that opportunity. Doing so expanded my practical skills, my critical thinking, and how I think about the world around me.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve done science outreach ranging in scale from one-on-one interactions at events to organizing those events to developing online resources. In five years, I’d like to pursue more research and development in science outreach and education, and continuing to be directly involved with these efforts. I’d like to contribute to the effectiveness of science education and outreach through research on their impact and through designing and sharing innovative new techniques for connecting with audiences. (On a different note, I would also like to knit a sweater that actually fits me properly.)
Any advice for prospective or current studies?
Find a creative outlet and make the time to pursue it regularly. For me, that’s theatre. Creating and attending theater challenges me, expands my knowledge of the world around me, and just sparks joy. Whatever art form speaks to you, make it a priority to create and to enjoy the creations of your fellow artists.