Alice Chou OET

Alice Chou

Science Communication Fellow
Lead Community Scientist
BioBus, Inc.

Tell us about your work/ research. What kinds of things do you do?

I am a Lead Community Scientist for BioBus, a not-for-profit science outreach organization and mobile laboratory! Scientists at BioBus, like myself, travel to schools across New York and New England to bring research experiences to students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to discover, explore, and pursue science. I lead hands-on science activities for students in grades K-12 across the Greater Boston Area on topics such as urban ecology, cell biology, and science illustration. 

Scientifically, I consider myself a marine neurobiologist: someone who sits at the intersection of marine biology and neuroscience. I am most curious about how animals (especially crustaceans!) sense the world around them, and how their nervous systems work to generate appropriate responses.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I have always loved sharing knowledge and figuring out how things work. In college, I pursued a degree in neurobiology because I was curious about how brains worked. Although I spent many days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium as I was growing up, I didn't realize I could be *both* a marine biologist and a neuroscientist until I spent the last quarter of my undergraduate career at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. There, I met amazing scientists who opened my eyes to how much is still unknown about the ocean and the life that resides there. I ended up pursuing a graduate degree studying crustacean sensory systems (specifically mantis shrimp!), which was the perfect way to combine my background in neuroscience and my passion for ocean life. I would chat all the time about these topics to people I met, which eventually led me to a full-time career in informal science education and outreach.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I fully credit my parents with encouraging me to follow my curiosity. One is a teacher and the other is a scientist so some might say that I ended up combining their careers! I have also had some incredible mentors along my science journey: Sukkrit Nimitkul, Tom Cronin, and Eve Marder, just to name a few. Every single one of them has provided valuable insights, patience, and expertise that led to my current work.

What element of your work/ study do you think is the most fascinating?

My favorite part of being a Community Scientist is getting to connect with all my students, learning about what makes them curious, and sharing my own scientific experiences. They each have so much to share and I feel lucky to know them. In some ways this complements my research background in sensory ecology really well: understanding the perceptions of others (human or otherwise) is central to learning more about the world.

How did you get involved with Ocean Exploration Trust? How did you become part of the expedition team?

An alumni of the fellowship gave a presentation at a conference I was attending. Five minutes into his slideshow, I knew I had to apply!

What other jobs led you to your current career?

To be honest, I haven't had many jobs since I spent so many years in school. The ones I have had (research assistant, teaching assistant, tutor) were all science or education adjacent. However, I am really proud of the work I've done to combine my hobbies and career! A few years ago during graduate school, I was a guest scientist on a variety of video game podcasts and livestreams (including one on ocean exploration), which really emphasized to me how much I loved connecting science to every day life.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology -- University of Maryland Baltimore County 2021

Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior -- University of California Davis 2013

What are your hobbies?

I am a first-class hobby hopper; I love to try new activities! The ones that have really stuck and continuously bring me joy are cooking, reading, and swimming. I also spend a lot of my weekends at a pottery studio making hybrid vegetable-animal creatures inspired by biological adaptations.

What advice would you give someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Be intentional about understanding what motivates you. Not only will this help accomplish your goals, but it makes the journey more enjoyable and fun.


Alice participated in the following Ocean Exploration Trust expeditions: