Why did you choose to become a scientist?
Being a scientist actually chose me. I knew what I wanted to be since I could talk. My career goals were always to become a medical doctor (though it oscillated between being president of the USA I elementary school). Little did I know, all the things I did throughout school as actually setting me on the path to becoming a computational ecologist. From participating in academic games, debate, DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program), robotics, science fairs ( in 7th grade, I won 1st place Gold in the city wide science fair for my project titled " The effects of different types of water on a tomato plant"), I was actually setting the foundation to eventually pursue my doctoral degree. I didn't realize this until my Junior year of Undergrad when taking an Ecology class but I'm glad I did and I don't regret it.
What are your current research interests?
Overall, I'm interested in the complex interactions that occur in nature. To understand them, I use modeling and statistics to try to understand why things happen. Right now, my current research focuses using an integrated, community-based approach to advance our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the maintenance of the tick-borne disease: Lyme disease.
Choose one quality that you think is the most important for making a good scientist. Why?
Perseverance: Science involves a lot of trial and error. It may even include a couple of failures but eventually it is worth it. You may have to deal with rejections and things not working out for you but with perseverance you will get that acceptance in to a program, scholarship, fellowship, grant funds, job, etc.
What advice would you have for aspiring scientists?
Find a good mentor. As a matter of fact, find more than one. Someone who believes in you and will time the time to support and guide you. And once that you do, pass along the knowledge you have gain and become a mentor yourself. Do outreach and know that no matter what stage you are at, there is always someone who is trying to get to where you are and who is looking up to you.
Why 500 women scientists?
I believe that to foster greater recognition of science means that we must increase diversity through active engagement by professionals--principally by those who share similar cultural experiences therefore I place myself in leadership roles to expose the next generation to all possibilities. Because of this, the mission and values of 500 Women Scientists resonated within me. I took the election last year a bit hard because I felt that a lot of what I had been doing for the past few years in terms of my personal career goals and outreach was rendered useless. It took some time, but I realized that I just had to fight harder for what I believed in and with 500 Women Scientists in addition to everything else that I am involved in, I'm going to fight with everything I have to ensure that the progress we have made as women since the Suffrage movement is not for naught. Hopefully, as the Pod coordinator for 500 Women Scientists in the Champaign/Urbana Community, I will be able to do just that.