As a quick reminder, these SAAS guest blog posts will feature a Q&A format that will hopefully allow you to learn about who these scientists are as people. I'll also be sure to incorporate plenty of links for you to have quick and easy access to social media pro les, websites, articles, and other means of finding out more about each guest's research. Please leave some comments and let me know if there are other questions you'd like answered, or scientists you'd be keen on reading about. Enjoy!
The pictures on the website are (mostly) all pictures taken during PhD adventures, with the exception of Macchu Picchu and older research project pages.
The following description and video are from Catherine's awesome website. Enjoy!
Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, and Swahili so I can better communicate with my in-laws and better communicate in my field work. If I had more time I’d like to learn French too – which would be helpful for working in Africa. I learned Spanish in high school but that usually doesn’t help me on fieldwork in Africa!
This is so hard – I have a serious case of wanderlust and travel FOMO. I have been lucky to visit many places during my undergraduate and graduate training. On my bucket list is Igazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Also India (especially the Taj Mahal), China (especially the Great Wall and terra cotta warriors), Taiwan, Italy, France…it goes on and on…
What are your top three favorite/coolest organisms?
Elephants [left]. Tigers. Tardigrades are pretty fabulous. And honestly most bacteria and viruses are pretty cool too. I had a chance to go to a chimpanzee orphanage one time and have since been haunted by how much intelligence and humanity I saw staring back in my eyes. I also think this particular animal [below] is hilarious.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, currently 4 goldfish and 2 snails. I would love to have a dog or cat but not sure I have the time for them.
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy dancing (ballroom dance, club dances, and bellydancing), singing (often in a choir), cooking, eating new and creative food, reading, traveling, hiking and being outdoors!
Who do you vent to when things are going wrong?
I vent to my husband, Kevin, and to my mom.
My friends in high school used to answer this with ‘Britain.’ I might choose teleportation. Or a time turner like Hermione’s but that sounds like it could be tricky avoiding running into past versions of me.
Typically popular music of all sorts from the radio but I also enjoy choral music as well as movie soundtrack music by some of my favorite composers.
Obtaining and interpreting ecological or epidemiological data is hard and we often don’t have enough data to make conclusions (especially when it’s surveillance data!). Channeling funding to improve data collection systems would go a long way into improving this to continue good population health and ecology research. Additionally, it takes math, statistics, and programming skills to be able to do some of the modeling work so it’s important – no matter what field of science you are in – to at least get through some basic stats, calculus, and learn a programming language for data analysis. This can help you get a wide variety of jobs
When/how did you know you wanted to get into the world of scientific research?
For most of my life I wanted to be an astronomer and I loved being outdoors and exploring and asking questions. I loved microscopy, doing collection in the field, and my internship at a local planetarium teaching the public about the stars. So it was clear from a very early age I was going to be a scientist but which type changed during my college years from astronomer to neuroscientist (B.S.), to epidemiologist and global health researcher (MPH).
What are your strengths/weaknesses as a researcher?
My strengths are my attention to detail, ability to work well in a team, storytelling ability, and ability to think across scales from fine detail up to big picture. I’d say one of my strengths may also be a weakness – attention to detail can sometimes leave me in the weeds longer than necessary.
- Like: I work on a really interesting system that enables me to learn the analytical skills I want, have the chance to travel internationally and work with a variety of collaborators, and to do computational work in a variety of work locations (like home!).
- Dislike: The common troubles of bad internet connection to my collaborators or difficulties in field data collection can be frustrating. I also wish there were more scientists using more advanced math and stats models in their research so that the glazed over eyes look that I get when I say I work on models would be less common!
- Like: The excitement of new projects and simply talking science with peers and mentors in the office, on fieldwork, and at conferences. It is so fun to share my research stories and to hear theirs.
- Dislike: The pressure to constantly be working, the bragging about the overworking, and the imposter syndrome generated among nearly everyone by being in the environment. I think these things get in the way of getting work done, having healthy relationships at work and a home, and diminishes our ability to see not so obvious connections that can lead to big discoveries.
Most everything about astronomy and neuroscience is so cool. What is the nature of black holes? Is there or was there other intelligent life out in the universe? How do we store memories? How does our brain produce consciousness?
To minimize distraction, I often work from home when the task can be done on the computer. I find I am more productive and work longer hours this way. I made a nice desk setup at home to ensure I can really get things done.
I’m prone to overworking so the best way to force ‘balance’ for me is to block out time for non-work activities and explicitly put them in my schedule. Even better if it involves someone else or I had to pay for the activity – then I am less likely to back out and keep working. I’m learning with each year that it is more and more important for me to make sure it include some exercise! That said, given I carry out my research in Tanzania, I’d say balancing work with safaris is the best sort of balance!
To five-year-old me I would say – keep playing outside and reading as much as you can! Keep asking questions and using your imagination. To fifteen-year-old me I would say keep reading for fun, don’t hate math just practice it more, and make sure to pick up skills playing an instrument before leaving high school!
I originally came back to academia after a 5 year career as an epidemiologist (abroad and domestic) to add disease modeling experience to my toolset and prepare for a career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer or similar research analyst position. I still have this goal but am open to other places where I can continue research such as research institutes, academia, industry, etc. I still want to be doing research but I’d also like to have a hand in applying the research and influencing policy, if possible.