Students, feel free to keep asking me questions, especially on Twitter @FromTheLabBench! I miss you all!
PhD Researcher at Washington University in St. Louis (2010-11); Engineering & Science Tutor at LSU Cox Center for Academic Success (2008 -09)
My job as Communications Intern for LSU Engineering consists of interviewing students and researchers and writing stories about engineering research at LSU. I am also a student in Mass Communications, specializing in Science Journalism.
I work for the Louisiana State University College of Engineering Communications Office. On the side, I coach swimming and diving, and I blog for Nature Network, Nature Publishing Group!
I am an engineer and a communicator – I engineer ‘smart’ nanomaterials with biomedical applications and I translate engineer-speak into everyday language.
A few trivia facts about me:
I was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. (The state of Corn and the Indy 500).
I spent a year at as a middle-schooler in France. I speak fluent french.
I was home-schooled as a high-school student.
I have 7 brothers and sisters!
Sometimes, I can be very ditzy. (Yes, even scientists can be ditzy).
I competed springboard and platform diving in college.
My best skill in school was a photographic memory.
My boyfriend is also a Biological Engineer.
I love dogs.
I LOVE coffee. It has so many natural antioxidants, I drink it as if it were a vitamin.
I started off my college education as a Biological & Agricultural Engineering student at Louisiana State University, in the ‘Boot’ state of Louisiana.
At LSU, I began to study tiny objects called nanoparticles, harnessing these little guys for the delivery of medical drugs to locations of disease inside the human body. My project involved loads of chemical experiments, watching how my nanoparticles behaved under the microscope, and making nanoparticles glow-in-the-dark so that I could see them under what is called a fluorescent microscope. I attached medical drug agents to these nanoparticles, so that my nanoparticles could carry the drugs to any targeted location in the human body!
What is Nanotechnology? Watch this video to find out!
After finishing both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in the Biological Engineering program at LSU, I moved on to gain PhD-level experience in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. I worked on creating ‘smart’ nano-materials that can help doctors to better find locations of disease, such as cancer, inside the human body, and to better treat these diseases. That is when things started to get really interesting!
At WashU, I found my passion for communicating science. I volunteered to teach students about nanotechnology – the science of objects 100x smaller than the width of a human hair – at a local science museum. I loved it! I parted from St. Louis and returned to the ‘Bayou’ in Louisiana, where I am now pursuing a PhD in Mass Communication at LSU, specializing in Science Journalism and Communications!
I think communicating science is just as important as doing science! I currently perform research in environmental engineering and global climate change communications, trying to figure out what types of messages best resonate with people. Better messages could mobilize communities to care more about the environment and support scientists who perform climate research.
I also blog for Nature Publishing Group, via my Nature Network Blog From The Lab Bench. Read my blog here!
You can also connect with me on Twitter @FromTheLabBench, and ask me questions anytime!
Image of glowing nanoparticles in a human cancer cell. I took these pictures with a fluorescent microscope!
This ‘Globe’ is being held by a ‘Micro-gripper’. The arms on the Micro-gripper are thinner than the width of a strand of human hair. (Image through Engineering at Cambridge, Flickr.com). This ‘Globe’ is on the microscale (10^-6 meters), while nano-objects are at least 1000x smaller (10^-9 meters)!
This image is called “The Dark Side of Carbon’ (by NASA). It shows swirls of black carbon, commonly called soot, moving across the earth’s atmosphere. Black carbon enters the air when fossil fuels and biofuels, such as coal, wood, and diesel are burned.
My Typical Day
A whirlwind of reading and writing about science, interviewing scientists, creating and administering ‘science surveys’, and much more!
Days as a biological engineer run the gamut of reading up on other scientists’ experiments and research, to whipping up a batch of nanoparticles in the laboratory (a rather complex chemical reaction, no matter how easy it sounds!), to gazing in awe at brightly colored tumor cells under the microscope. Oh yes, and there is plenty of running around campus to your classes, presenting your work to colleagues in lab meetings, and attending conferences around the world!
I spent many a day in such fashion during my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Now, my schedule is even more packed with fun, and I always try to mix it up. Some days I wake up early to go to my Journalism classes at LSU. Other days I wake up and hold Skype interviews with professors and scientists across the world (the last one was in London!) on particularly juicy new scientific innovations! For example, I recently phoned up a professor from Washington State who has adapted Google Internet Search Engine software to predict how molecules interact with one another – pretty cool stuff!
When I’m not writing about science, I’m conducting my own research into how non-scientists perceive messages and media about scientific issues of the day, like stem cell research controversies and global climate change. For example, I bring students into our ‘media effects’ laboratory and watch how they react to videos about climate change that focus on either ‘the coming disaster’ or the promises of ‘green economy’, and I measure their reactions and attitudes toward these messages. It is very important for scientists and engineers to learn how to best communicate their work to non-scientists and non-engineers, because we all have to cooperate together to solve today’s biggest scientific challenges.
I also squeeze into my day time to coach diving at the LSU Pool, where I was once a competing collegiate student athlete myself! I love teaching kids to flip off of the diving board and to jump off of the high dive!
And yes, I have a puppy boxer who is a joy as well as a terror when I come home and he has eaten up the coach or his dog bed!!
What I'd do with the money
Every cent will go to engaging more young students in science and engineering, especially in nanotechnology and climate science.
If I am fortunate to win the monetary reward, I plan to set up an online website that will bring high school students closer to their local engineers and scientists.
This website will be a permanent place for students to ask engineers and scientists questions about science and research. But even more than that, the website will be a place where scientists should write about their research and their current scientific projects, so that students can give their input and advice! You see, many scientists get soo bogged down in their work that they fail to see some of the most obvious and innovative applications of their work. Scientists need the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking of high school students and young engineering and science students just as much as these students need scientists to foster their scientific skill sets.
In addition, with the money from ‘I’m an Engineer, get me Out of Here!’ I hope to set up this site and arrange for sponsors to pay for high-school students to visit their local engineers and scientists at their local universities and biotech companies, and even for scientists to visit the students’ schools! I think such outreach is incredibly important. Science education is not a one way street! Scientists need the ideas and advice of young students to give their projects more out-of-the-lab and real-world applications.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, Fun, Persistent
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Diving off of a 10meter platform! (I was a student-athlete on the Swimming and Diving team at LSU)
What did you want to be after you left school?
When I was little, I wanted to be a writer… as I grew up, I wanted to be a scientist. Now I am lucky enough to be both!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I was always too busy in sports (gymnastics and diving) and schoolwork to get into trouble! I get get in trouble once though, for skipping class to compete at an Olympic-Trial qualifying diving meet!
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
Show young engineering students the wonders and delights of the world of nanotechnology at a science museum fair!
Tell us a joke.
Why does hamburger have lower energy than steak? Because it’s in the ground state!
This is me performing a ‘mock’ interview with notable science blogger Chris Mooney. We were at a National Science Foundation conference called ‘Science: Becoming the Messenger’. It was packed with scientists learning how to better communicate their work!
This is me presenting my Thesis work in front of my graduate school committee of professors…