In the histology lab
Favourite Thing: Traveling around the world on ships working as a marine naturalist. It combines everything I love – the ocean, traveling, having a good laugh, and talking science!
I grew up in the US and went to lots of different schools. I started school really, really young (1.5!). My mother claims that I asked to go – I think I was probably just more-than-a-handful at home and thus preschool seemed like a brilliant idea. (If you’re reading this Mom, I’m just joking!) I started kindy in 1980. (My teacher’s name was Mrs. Frisco. I remember that, when I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, because she had this massive afro, and it reminded me of disco: Frisco-Disco)
For my BA, I studied International Relations and German at William Jewell College. I spent my third year of uni living in Europe, studying at Humboldt University in East Berlin and at Albert-Ludwig University in Freiburg-in-Breisgau. Truly, one of the most awesome years of my life. I can’t recommend being an exchange student, or doing an overseas gap year, highly enough. Seriously. Why are you still reading this? Go apply for an exchange program already! :) After I barely graduated (long story), I took off and traveled the world (if you get really, really, really bored sometime, you can google my name and find the advice I wrote about which airports and ditches are best to sleep in). When I was 26, I went to CSUMB to become a high school teacher. (Loved that!) Then, in 2005, after two amazing years volunteering for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I snuck into the biology program at CalPoly, SLO. Now, I’m living in Australia (woohoo!) studying at the University of Queensland.
All over the world. I was quite old (30!) before I started studying science – and I left high school at 16, so I had a lot of time to wander around the world. A few of the more memorable (and infamous) jobs I held: well, if you’ve seen “Thank You For Smoking”, I worked for the “Merchants of Death”. One highlight job was traveling with a group of teenagers through Russia and Sweden for six weeks. I was a street mime, an actress, and I worked on a dairy. (I couldn’t drink milk for months).
The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia
PhD research student
Me and my work
I study the toxins that are found in cephalopod venoms; basically, I get to play with squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. :)
My Typical Day
Ha ha ha. There’s no such thing! Somedays I am up all night squidding, other days DNA extraction, other days emails!
Well – if you REALLY want to know. Some days I get to milk octopus (Woohoo! May I just say how awesome this is? The opportunity to say things like, “I milk octopus for work!” really does make the umpteen years of school worth it!) After that, I extract RNA and proteins and fun stuff like that. Some days (who am I kidding – I mean nights – I never get to do stuff like this in the daytime – when I can see the sharks! No – I have to go out at night, when I’m sure there are lots of ferocious sharks just waiting to eat me. Ok, not really. I love sharks, truly. But, it would be nice, just once in a while, to go squidding in daylight when it’s not so cold!). Some days (ok – most days) – I end up at the library at some point to grab a book and read up on a new technique or an old research idea. (I have to admit – I do actually LIKE libraries. I love sitting in a room surrounded by the shared knowledge of millions of people over thousands and thousands of years. What can I say – I’m a nerd.)
What I'd do with the money
I’d use the money to buy webcams that I could set up when I’m doing work so that YOU can ask questions!
I had a different answer here before – I wanted to buy an underwater camera and make videos for YouTube. Then, I had the amazing chance to chat with some of you – and that made me realize – that’s more fun than YouTube! So – I’d use the money to set-up a webcam system in my lab, so that you could see me work and ask questions. (Not to mention – how often do you get to see an octopus being milked live?)
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Silly, outgoing, adventurous
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Fat Freddy’s Drop (a Kiwi band)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Mud whomping. It’s basically when, immediately after a rain storm, you grab all of your friends, find a large mud puddle, and take turns running and sliding through it on your stomachs. I recommend that you check for rocks before doing this though. :)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I wish that I could be independently wealthy – so that I never would have to wonder where I was going to sleep or what I was going to eat again! I would wish that people would start to care for the planet so that my great-great-great grandchildren would still be able to see all of the cool animals I love. Last but not least – I wish that I could cook! :)
What did you want to be after you left school?
A spy. No seriously – I studied politics so I could go into diplomacy and espionage.
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Wait a second – they promised me those records were destroyed!
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Made people laugh and go, “Wow – I never knew a sponge could be so interesting!”
Tell us a joke.
This is, I kid you not, my all time favorite joke. Audiences around the world have groaned at its telling. A mushroom walks into a cafe and orders a coffee. The barista says, “We don’t serve coffee to your kind.” The mushroom says, “Come on – I’m a fun guy!” Are you dying laughing right now? I am! Hello? Hello? Bueller?