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Ashley Hodel

Academic (Grants) Coordinator

University of California, Davis

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Don’t be afraid to try and when you fail, don’t be discouraged to try again.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I manage two NIH funded pre-doctoral neuroscience training grants with the University of California, Davis. Both training grants strive to support predominately underrepresented students. At the most basic level, I facilitate all the nitty-gritty of the grants, ensuring we are current with funding requirements, students get paid and essential training requirements are met. I also help to expand our programming, participate in outreach to aspiring grad students and ensure we are providing the best mentorship, resources and support to our pre-doctoral trainees. At my core, I am a scientist and educator, trained in breast cancer biology with a passion for teaching and mentorship. I am also a mother to a bright and curious little girl and understand, now more than ever, the importance of empowering girls to reach for the stars.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I have always had a passion for science, from archeology to veterinary medicine but found myself interested in everything science related and had a hard time really solidifying what I wanted to do forever. As a first-gen scientist and one of only a few in my family to actually go to college, I didn't even realize basic research was an option until late in my undergraduate career when one of my professors (and later my graduate PI) made a pitch for students to join his laboratory. Since I am extremely reserved, it took all of my courage (and then some) to inquire about a position. As soon as I started in the lab, I knew this was for me. It satisfied my curious mind, challenged me solve problems, and permitted me to take a question in any direction. I found research quelled my "interest in everything". I also found my tribe of like-minded, awkward, smart and passionate people. Although I'm no longer at the bench, I absolutely love that I get to mentor and support the next generation of scientists and share my passion for research with them.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

I have faced quite a few challenges along the road but probably my first and one of the most significant was my father. He did not find value a college degree, in fact he highly discouraged it. We had several difficult conversations about my desire to go to college that ended with him insisting t it wasn’t necessary and me feeling like I was a disappointment. Fortunately, I had a role model in my mom who found the courage to pursue her degree after my parents divorced. She went from cleaning houses to fulfilling her dream of becoming a college-educated, elementary school teacher by the time I was in High School.

 

Although my own college degree was important to my mom, she wasn’t in a position to support me financially, so I worked full-time- sometimes at two to three different jobs at a time- to support my education. I also started off in community college to save money. Ultimately, it took me 11 years to complete my bachelors, made possible by an OWL (older, wiser learner) scholarship from UC Davis that allowed me to finally focus on my studies full time. I was actually prouder of my bachelor’s than I was my Ph.D. because of all of the obstacles faced to obtain it.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I wouldn’t change anything about my story since it has made me the person I am today, and I am very proud of that person. I value everything I have because of how hard I worked to be here. However, I would encourage my younger self to reach even higher. To not set limits because of my age, my gender, my finances or because someone somewhere told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t. I want my daughter, my students and mentees to hear that message and encourage them to be everything they think can be and more.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

I love working in STEM because I feel challenged and inspired daily. I love solving problems, analyzing all the variables and being in a constant state of learning. Even away from the bench and the excitement of discovery, I find that no two days are ever the same and I feel like I am contributing in significant ways.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

I would just say don’t be afraid to try and when you fail, don’t be discouraged to try again. You will likely meet people who don’t understand or don’t believe in you. You may even have a voice in your head that says you can’t, you aren’t enough, or you don’t belong where you are. Those are lies. You can be anything you set your heart and mind to. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and push you to be better. Finally, remember all of your successes, even the small ones as they will keep you moving forward.

INSPIRATION

I am definitely insipred my mom, my grandmother and other women who I have met along my journey that have made it despite the odds. When I hear that voice inside of me that says “you can’t” I think of one woman in particular who has acquired three advanced degrees (MS, PhD, MD) while also raising her three children as a single parent. If she can do all of that, I can do whatever it is in front of me.