In the histology lab
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).
PhD research student
The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia
Favourite thing to do in my job: 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 study the toxins that are found in cephalopod venoms; basically, I get to play with squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. :)
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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 prize 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
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Made people laugh and go, “Wow – I never knew a sponge could be so interesting!”
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Wait a second – they promised me those records were destroyed!
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! :)
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?