#SciComm: Featuring Dr. Stacia Nicholson from @aliquotthesciencespot

Posted by Applied Biological Materials (abm) on April 5, 2022

We recognize science can seem difficult to young scientists, and we hope to raise awareness about people who make it fun and accessible to broader audiences through social media, #SciComm!


This week, we are excited to share our interview with Dr. Stacia Nicholson! Stacia is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University studying the impact of lead/air pollution exposure and various brain diseases. On her blog and instagram channel, @aliquotthesciencespot, Stacia makes scientific topics accessible to non-scientists and shares her journey as a black woman in science!

@aliquotthesciencespot Portrait

Tell us a bit about yourself! Did you always know you wanted to be a scientist? What project are you currently working on?

Hi, I'm currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow focused on Precision Medicine in Environmental Health Sciences. Right now I'm studying how exposure to environmental toxins influence brain pathogenesis🧠, and looking for novel non-invasive diagnostic markers in human plasma.

I didn't remember that I had known that I wanted to be a scientist, but several people from my teenage years have told me recently that I always spoke about becoming a scientist and having a doctorate.

On your @aliquotthesciencespot instagram channel and blog you share tidbits about life in the lab as well as longer articles demystifying science for lay people. Why is #SciComm so important in today’s day and age?

SciComm is very important, especially now, as evidenced in the discussions we've been having during this pandemic.

Alot of people have a hard time understanding scientific and medical information. Alot of people haven't had a rigorous science education. Without knowing the fundamentals, it's difficult to comprehend the information today regarding medical interventions and even nutritional choices. People are struggling to separate science from politics and its having a detrimental impact on how we view not just vaccines, but genetically modified foods, and even climate change.

I aim to give people those fundamentals, so that they can make informed decisions, instead of fear based decisions.

In addition to research and lab work, you’ve also been an inspiring figure and role model to young scientists – mentoring, delivering lectures, participating in Q&A panels, and visiting schools to inspire a passion for science!🔬 It’s particularly important to have your voice represented and to hear about your journey as a black woman in science! Sadly, racism and marginalization of minority groups are still very prevalent in today’s society. Can you share your thoughts on some of the challenges black and minority female scientists face and what are some things we can do to fight against it?💪🏾

First, I want to way thank you for recognizing my contributions. Indeed, racism and marginalization is still very prevalent and something I've had to deal with countless times during my journey as a scientist. This question definitely deserves more time and space to be adequately addressed, but the challenges are real and many people are trying to figure out how to fight against it. For me, it's persisting and speaking out against it, not denying it. There needs to be accountability, as long as people can get away with saying they didn't know they were being racist then there will be no change.

Racism is a form of bullying and bullying is very deliberate. It's not enough to put someone in a space or position, if you're not going to accept them as equal, deserving, and qualified. What we're dealing with is perception, and it's hard to change how people choose to see the world around them, and the people in it. My hope is by presenting myself consistently, I can normalize the image of Black women as scientists.

@aliquotthesciencespot Portrait

In one of your instagram posts, you said you used to tell Master’s students that you were training/mentoring to “stop being scared, you can't do this work and be scared, you have to be confident in your ability”. Many scientists – especially young scientists – constantly feel like their accomplishments are due to luck or the kindness of their peers. What advice do you have to deal with those feelings of self-doubt/imposter syndrome?

Haha, great quote. Well, I would say, you have to know yourself. You have to know your strengths and your weaknesses.

It's not a flaw to have a weakness. We all have areas we need to develop in, but once you know what you are capable of, no one can take that from you. That is your unique innate skill or talent. Let that be your foundation and build on that. Trust the process and be kind to yourself, cause no one will advocate for you better than yourself.

In another instagram post, you shared “The thing about science is it requires alot of faith. You put in alot of effort, and get excited for positive results. You get your heart broken alot, after hours or even days of work you might have to go back and do it all over again...” Experimental “failures” are a common occurrence in research – what do you to do keep yourself motivated so that you can keep moving forward despite the road block?🚧

Well because I know this to be the case I'm already mentally prepared.

It's often times in the "failures" that you find clues to solve problems and develop new strategies.

That's the fun of it, it's like one time a labmate was using a particular cell-line and was getting an odd outcome. For her she thought that cast doubt in the work we had been doing before, but it turned out that that cell-line had a deficiency in the protein she was trying to study. That right there gives clues to the importance of that protein to the substance she was using to target it. You have to look deeper. It also revealed the importance of reading and comprehending the literature before making decisions about experimental design. You have to have an eye and a stomach for science.

@aliquotthesciencespot Portrait


Favorite and least favorite lab technique?

I love cell culture and microscopy🧫. Least favorite is cell sorting because its very time consuming, but once you get the results its so satisfying.

Favorite way to unwind after a long day in the lab?

Unwind? What's that, lol...A redbull and a good movie🍿.

Favorite #SciComm channels?

Oooh ....good question. I'll have to think about that and post an ig story.

An interesting factoid that you learned about your field?

"All things are poison...the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison" - Paracelsus

@nicky_in_genetics Illustration

Thank you again, Stacia, for taking the time to share your thoughts on #SciComm with us! We got a lot of great advice and insight into how life is like as a scientist! Visit Dr. Nicholson's instagram channel @aliquotthesciencespot to follow her story!

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