Tell us about your work/research. What kinds of things do you do?
I split my time at work between teaching and research. I teach all levels of biology courses including introductory biology and histology. Along with undergraduate students I conduct research in a couple of areas. Currently, I am working on an American Elk project with my collaborator in Kentucky and two crocodilian projects with a colleague at McNeese State University. In all cases, I use my background in molecular biology, programmed cell death, and histology to design and conduct experiments.
What sparked your initial interest in your career?
I have always been interested in biology. I cannot remember a time before I wanted to know everything I could about every plant, bug, and animal in sight. Spending a lot of time outside as a child made me curious about the natural world.
Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?
As a child family always encouraged me to pursue my interest in science. As a graduate student, my mentors Dr. Edmund Rucker and Dr. Phillip Bonner inspired me to pursue the unknown.
What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?
Currently, I am most fascinated with applying molecular biology techniques and bioinformatics to non-traditional model organisms. It is challenging sometimes but the results are so rewarding!
What other jobs led you to your current career?
I have worked in many roles. During college, I worked in a jewelry store as a salesperson, sold cowboy boots, and worked in a clothing store. I have worked as a research assistant working in cotton pathology and even on transgenic Axolotl salamanders. From every experience, I have gained invaluable skills. Interpersonal skills, time management, communication, teamwork, and adaptability are only a few of the skills I have taken away from these experiences. Meeting interesting people and making friends is a great bonus!
What are your degrees and certifications?
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences -- Texas A&M University, 2007; Doctor of Philosophy in Biology -- University of Kentucky, 2014
What are your hobbies?
I love to go running, play with my dogs, and garden. When it is raining or cold I love a good book.
What advise would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?
I advise anyone who wants to be a biologist to soak in as much STEM foundation knowledge as possible. Strong chemistry and math skills are essential to biology, especially molecular biology and bioinformatics. Spend extra time on the areas in which you are weak. Seize any opportunity that presents itself and don't be afraid of trying new things. The road is rarely a straight one, enjoy the journey!
How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?
I applied for the position of Science Communication Fellow after reading about the opportunity in an email from my university.