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!
Meet Maria Ibrahim, a science communicator and PhD student studying Cancer Biology and Molecular Biosciences. Maria uses her Instagram account @girlmeetsscience to share her journey in research with others and give tips for staying organized and productive!
We had the amazing opportunity to ask Maria a few questions about her research, the challenges she's faced as a Master's and PhD student and her advice on how to stay focused and organized.
Hi Maria! Can you tell us a bit about your journey in research and how you've gotten to where you are today?
My research journey was unique and long. Originally, I was a pharmacy student at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences but I wasn't enjoying the curriculum and couldn't imagine myself as a pharmacist. I knew that research was my passion so I joined a pharmaceutical lab as a summer undergraduate research fellow in my junior year. I switched over to pharmaceutical sciences and graduated with my bachelors. My application wasn't competitive enough for a PhD program, so I completed a two years thesis based masters program at Tufts university in Amy Yee's lab.
I applied for PhD programs after, but was not accepted into any programs and began applying for research technician positions. Fortunately, I joined Sangeeta Bhatia's lab at MIT. There, I worked for about a year and a half before applying to PhD programs and was accepted at Rutgers University. 🙌
"My journey was very long but I'm truly grateful for all the opportunities and guidance from mentors."
What made you decide to use social media to share your journey?
I always get questions from family and friends about the daily life of a PhD student. Usually, this includes explaining that I work in a lab and test hypotheses so I can publish my research. I decided to start a Instagram page to share my journey with pictures of experiments and easy explanations of my research projects.🧪 Additionally, being a PhD student can be a lonely experience and social media helps me engage with others.
That is when I decided to start my science Instagram page to share with my family the things I would be doing in grad school in a way they would understand.
In a lot of your posts you share tips for studying, keeping organized and staying focused. These are areas lots of us struggle with; do you have any tips to share with us?
Stay organized! It's so easy to get overwhelmed and put tasks off. I always make a task seem so unachievable in my head until I complete it and realize it was so easy. Therefore, my biggest piece of advice is to just make a list of things and start somewhere.
"I promise, once you start crossing things off it will feel so liberating!" 📝
You offer a lot of advice in your posts for those thinking of pursuing a graduate degree. What have been the biggest challenges you faced while getting your Master's degree and so far while working toward your PhD? How did you overcome these challenges?
Honestly, my biggest challenge during my master's degree was time management. Between studying, taking classes, working a part time job, and studying for the GRE, I was juggling many different things. Looking back, I have no idea how I did everything. It was definitely a busy time in my life. I overcame this by staying organized and utilizing every day to the maximum.⌚
Currently, my challenges as a PhD are very different. Most of my time is spent managing experiments and preparing for my qualification exam, which can be isolating. Therefore, my challenges have been mental health and anxiety related. I haven't overcome any of these challenges and instead I'm seeking help by seeing a therapist.
"It's been wonderful to gain new skills like journaling and talk therapy that will help me be a better person."💪
When you're not in the lab, what do you like to do?
I love to hang out with my family! Usually, I will go to brunch or dinner in NYC on the weekends with my sister and cousins.
If you could say one thing to your past self from 10 years ago, what would it be?
Don't compare your journey or yourself to others. Over the years, I compared myself to others and that held me back from taking leaps forward. Recently, I've learned to stop myself from being in that mindset.
"I would tell my younger self to be more confident and not to worry about others."✨
What would make the world a better place?
Accepting that everyone is unique in their own way.
Are you an early-bird or a night owl?
Cats or Dogs?
What's your favourite dessert?
Trader Joe's mini ice cream cone. Trust me, it's delicious! 🍦