Postdoctoral Associate, Duke University
Don't forget how capable and strong you are.
Ariana N. Eily
What do you do?
I bring the arts, humanities, and STEM fields together to deepen our understanding of the world around us, broaden our perspective, and enhance our ability to engage with each other. This comes in the form of things like teaching scientists theater to be more engaging speakers, creating a science-art collaborative exhibit called the Art of a Scientist, and bring philosophy, ethics, and sociology into my classroom. Bringing these disciplines together also helps support my inclusive teaching practices, to create a space where we can explore ideas freely.
Why did you choose this field?
Throughout my tenor as a scientist, even just starting out when I was young in high school, I always thought science should be accessible to everyone and open to everyone. I always thought that science had a lot to learn from other disciplines and that together, we could paint a fuller picture of the world we live in.
I started my undergraduate as a Biology/English dual major, finishing with a Biology degree heavily influenced by art and philosophy. I was fortunate to continue this trend and took opportunities where I combined these interests as a graduate student, even including them as a chapter in my dissertation about the ways a small aquatic fern, Azolla, communicates with its cyanobacterial sidekick, Nostoc azollae.
The jump from bench science to the more social science I do now seemed fitting because it allows me to really dig into the diversity of perspectives that have always been a part of me and use them to increase the connection between science and society.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I feel like the easy, jumps out at me answer is the PhD. I never thought this was something I would ever have, but more importantly than that, it was learning to put myself first, choosing to bring my full self to all I do and knowing that is the best I can do for myself and the world around me. I encourage others to do the same. It is scary at first, but I find I am so much more impassioned by what I'm doing when I'm doing so with all of me.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love interacting with students and the ways they make me think, and the things they help me learn. Their energy, enthusiasm, and especially their thoughtfulness impresses me everyday. The scientific questions will always be there, but I constantly admire the students I meet.
Best advice for next generation?
Don't be afraid to be yourself, fully. Don't be afraid to put yourself first and take care of yourself in the ways you need to, even if it looks different than how others are doing it. You aren't them and you're allowed to do this your way.
Don't forget how capable and strong you are. This stuff is hard, takes practice, and these skills develop over time. Give yourself that time and don't try to rush it or force it. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. We get so easily swayed by how easy things seem to come to others and wish it would be that way for ourselves, but it isn't easy to anyone at the start.
Lastly, have your group of people (people at all levels--friends, family, mentors, mentees, etc.). The people you can go to when things get tough, because they will. Nurture those relationships and their strength. Know that you can call on them when you need--especially when what you need is to challenge the system.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"All serious daring starts from within." And dang it, dare greatly!