#SciComm: Featuring Denny from @denny.the.scientist

Posted by Applied Biological Materials (abm) on February 18, 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!


@denny.the.scientist Portrait

This week, we'd like to introduce you to Denny from @denny.the.scientist! He is an infectious disease researcher pursuing his PhD at Western University, and he specializes in studying the fascinating world of pathogens and diseases all around us. His channel contains a plethora of tips and advice on pursuing a PhD, updates on his experiments performed in the lab, and of course, hilarious doses of science memes.

During our interview, we asked him to share his journey as a PhD student, the ups and downs and the responsibilities that come with this path, and any advice that he has to give for aspiring young scientists!

Thank you, Denny, for participating in our SciComm feature this week! Why don't you tell us more about yourself? What makes you want to pursue this field? 🏃 What activities do you do when you get a break from your lab work?

I am a 4th year Ph.D candidate at Western University in Canada studying bacterial pathogenesis and disease. 🦠 I became fascinated by bacteria that cause disease in humans in high school and wanted to learn more about this topic, so I majored in microbiology & immunology in my undergraduate studies and pursued research in this field. Outside of the lab, I enjoy making digital content on my Instagram, playing board games with friends, and watching Netflix & YouTube! 📺

As someone spending their 4th year as a PhD candidate, what is your most exciting or proudest achievement you have accomplished? Academically or personally.

Publishing this first author paper was a big deal for me because it was proof to myself that I could successfully do a long-term project, meaningfully contribute to my field of research, and persevere long enough to reap the fruits of my labor in the lab!

On your Instagram channel @denny.the.scientist, you actively share your experiences and struggles of being a PhD student, which is a side that not many people see in the media. Many people only focus on the success of being that "scientist who discovered a breakthrough," but not so much the process of getting to that step. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when pursuing a PhD?

The most important thing to be aware of during a PhD is that experiments fail very often.

It is not easy to persevere when you don’t know when your experiments will work out the way you want them to. 📉 However, by being diligent, disciplined, and thinking critically, you will be able to navigate past your problems and eventually get your experiments to work out for you! Being a scientist doesn’t mean constantly making grand discoveries but trying to move forward in the face of obstacles. 💡

@denny.the.scientist Portrait

Not only are you working with infectious diseases and pathogens, you are also working as a teaching assistant (TA) for an undergraduate lecture! What does a typical day look like for you? 🌇🌃

A typical morning for me consists of setting up experiments and then attending the undergraduate class I am a TA for. In the afternoon after lunch, I will set up additional experiments and finish other ones that I set up earlier in the day or the previous day. I end the day off by recording data I generated, graphing them out and using this information to plan out my next day.

What was something that you didn't expect or something that you wish you knew about before you started your scientific journey?

What I wish I knew more about earlier on in graduate school is the importance of having a good support system 🤜🤛. I wasn’t lacking support, but I could have had more of it as well. As I mentioned in a previous question, failures happen a lot and sometimes it feels like it’s only happening to you. Starting my Instagram and connecting with other graduate students really gave me a stronger sense of belonging and support because before I started my account, I had no idea that every graduate student was experiencing the same things I’ve been experiencing. 🔗 Even though this community is online...

...building a strong support network is definitely beneficial for your mental health during graduate school and to help you up when you’re feeling down.

Now for some more light-hearted questions!

What is the most amount of revisions or proofreads that you had to do for one of your papers or presentations?

It took me approximately 15 drafts 📑 to get my first first author paper just right!

What is your favourite thing that you have studied and experimented with?

The thing I have worked on that I enjoyed most is identifying and characterizing a compound that can potentially be used as an antibiotic to treat bacterial infections.

@denny.the.scientist Portrait

How many petri dishes can you carry at a time? 🧫

Depends on the technique! You can hold one stack with your fingers in each hand (8 petri dishes per hand) or you can use both hands as the “bread” for a sandwich with the petri dishes as the “filling” (around 30 plates total).

What is the longest amount of time you had to sit in front of a fume hood? ⏳

I do most of my work on the lab bench and not the fume hoods, so usually no more than 30 minutes at a fume hood.

And the very last question, if your lab coat can teleport you to anywhere in the world, whether an island in Hawaii or inside of a virus (without any harm done to you, of course), where would you go?

Japan! I’ve always wanted to go on a vacation there to experience the food and culture.

@denny.the.scientist Illustration

A big thank you to Denny for taking the time to have a #SciComm interview with us! It was a remarkable experience being able to hear his inspirational stories as a PhD student and all of the amazing advice that he shares with us. You will see more of his amazing content and wonderful science memes on his channel @denny.the.scientist!

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