What do you do?
I am doing research in immunology with the goal to decipher a viral mechanism that modulates gut microbiota contributing to neurodevelopmental disorder in infected hosts. I am experimenting in this complex subject in the simple and powerful nematode model, Caenorhabditis elegans, whose nervous system is analogous in many ways to humans. The ultimate goal of my research is to connect studies of basic mechanisms to the understanding of human hyperactive disorders. The basic knowledge obtained from this study will have long-term impacts when translated into diagnostics and therapeutic strategies to help manage, treat, and perhaps cure Attention Deficit hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The results are being communicated to scientific community through publishing papers in international refereed journals and presenting the works at academic conferences both nationally and internationally. My job responsibilities also include supervising undergraduates and graduate researchers in lab and reviewing manuscripts. I am an active reviewer with the journals including Physiology & Molecular Biology of Plants, Genes, Journal of Proteomics, Microbial Pathogenesis, and Frontiers in Microbiology, where I have been engaged in reviewing manuscripts covering my research expertise. I am associated with the Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) as a trainee, contributing to their goal of adding value to the experience of trainee members by providing services and activities to benefit their careers. Also, I am a professional member of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST), where I volunteer for science outreach programs and seminar events. In addition, I am associated with the Immigrant & International Women in Science (IWS-Vancouver) organization, a Canada-wide network; we meet to share independent ideas on our experiences about gender equity, diversity, professional and cultural challenges and opportunities in STEM. With these activities, I keep myself engaged as an active academic in outreach programs and it helps me to build a network beyond my academic career.
Why did you choose this field?
I am naturally inquisitive, and my thirst for knowledge is infinite. I have always aspired to be at the forefront of what I do. My interest in science was first piqued during my masters study, when I realized the joy of understanding and discovering something with science. It spurred my interest in a science career. During that course, I became aware with the journal publications and scientific conferences and I desired to be the author one day! I was encouraged by my biology teachers whose articles I was reading and following. But I wasn’t very clear of what I wanted to do next, although I vaguely hoped it might involve higher study. On the other side, I had lot of financial responsibilities with my family. I needed to decide what is necessary for me and I ended up taking a job in banking which wasn’t even on my radar. Within a year of being in tech world, I realized I should be finding solutions to my own questions. So I did it, a step toward PhD which I craved for. That led to my eventual desire, which I wouldn’t trade for anything!
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
The realization of the fact that one can do research in the subject despite graduating with a specialization degree in it. I always had interest in Bioinformatics and wanted to pursue a research career in it. But my masters degree was in botany with a specialization in plant pathology. When I was applying for a PhD, I didn’t know that I can do my doctoral research project in any applied subject of biology other than the one I graduated with master’s degree in. I remember that was the third year of my doctoral research when I realized that it could be possible, but it was already late then to transfer over to! However, it’s never too late to regret. I made it possible with my postdoctoral position. My current research project span both Computational Biology and Immunology.
Why do you love working in STEM?
Science is the lens through which I see and understand the world. It connects me to the natural world by understanding how it works. I love discovering different areas of biology and always learning something new. For me science is not all white coats and lab work. In addition to the time spent in doing bench research, I love advocating for science. Volunteering with scientific communities, doing science outreach programs, communicating science among people makes a huge impact in my life. Achievements through leadership recognition boosts my morale and confidence, and repositions my goals on a daily basis towards my career advancement. My career goal is to make a significant contribution to knowledge in a scientific field relevant to an exciting biomedical problem. I wake up every morning looking forward to build a meaningful career that thrive me as a leader in STEM.
Best advice for next generation?
Own your interest! The road to success in STEM is never an easy one. Don’t be afraid in the face of the obstacles, failures and shut doors, just keep moving forward! Find your passion and pursue it wholeheartedly. STEM was a male-dominated profession many years ago, but now there are plenty of women out there. Thrive in the face of this opposition with as much dignity as possible. Don’t feel uncomfortable to network. Always value your true potential and bring to the table your unique talent, no one can reasonably refuse you a seat!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“Learn from every mind!”