#SciComm: Featuring Chandler from @gproteincoupledresearcher

Posted by Applied Biological Materials (abm) on January 21, 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!


gproteincoupledresearcher Portrait

This week, we had the wonderful opportunity to interview Chandler from @gproteincoupledresearcher! She is a biochemist pursuing her PhD at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and she specializes in studying - you might’ve guessed it - G-protein coupled receptors ! Her channel is filled to the brim with advice for managing academic stress and mental health, stories from her PhD journey, and snippets of her personal life outside of the lab.

During our interview, we asked her to share her experiences as a PhD student, how she dealt with burnout, and her story of becoming a scientific researcher!

gproteincoupledresearcher Portrait

Hi Chandler, it’s always a pleasure getting to know talented individuals like yourself who are discovering more about the world through science. Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do in your free time? What drives you to keep pursuing the field of science? 👩🏼‍🔬

My name is Chandler, and I’m a third year biochemistry PhD student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. I’m a big Wisconsin sports fan, and I love to attend Brewers, Packers, and Badgers games with my dad 🏈. I also play softball and like to watercolor paint.

Teaching science is my passion. We have all seen the consequences of lack of scientific understanding throughout the pandemic. I really want to communicate science and make it more accessible because it truly is for everyone.

Now that you’re in your 3rd year of your PhD, what is your proudest academic or personal achievement/memory?

Passing my qualifying exam in December 2020! 💪🏻 COVID-19 infection rate was through the roof, and no vaccines were available.

I was still trying to manage my mental health. Despite all of this, I survived 3 hours of questions from my committee and passed with no conditions.

Maintaining mental health and dealing with toxicity in academia is absolutely crucial, and on your Instagram channel @gproteincoupledresearcher, you actively advocate for and share very insightful advice on overcoming these challenges. What do you think are the most important things to consider when faced with such difficulties?

I promise, once you start crossing things off it will feel so liberating! 📝

Within my first year in the lab, I learned that the to-do list is never going to end, so I just have to learn to step away. If coming in regularly on weekends isn't sustainable for you, that is ok!

Dealing with toxicity in academia can feel very isolating sometimes, but you are not alone.

Talk to your lab mates or someone else you trust. Chances are they have had a similar situation and can lend insight.

Being a researcher of G-protein coupled receptors and cancer metastasis, what does a typical day at the lab look like for you?

I switch between cell culture 🧫 and doing reactions with proteins in test tubes 🧪. Both types of experiments typically end with a Western blot, so I end up doing a lot of those either way. I've also done some BRET, which is a bioluminescent technique that tells me if two proteins are interacting with each other inside of living cells. I frequently discuss my results and next steps with my PI. I have a weekly to-do list with all of my experiments written out so I can cross things off as I accomplish things!

As a woman in STEM, what sort of difficulties have you faced on this journey? What advice do you have for women pursuing this field?

Via email or other means, I'm often mistaken for a man based on my first name. In some contexts, this has resulted in me being taken more seriously in my requests in the professional environment. In other situations, I have been met in person with statements like "huh, I was expecting a 40 year old man."

Women can often be perceived as emotional and less rational when asserting themselves in the workplace, something I have certainly experienced.

Now for some more light-hearted questions! What is your favourite and least favourite lab technique?

Can my answer be the same for both?? Because I say Western blot! The technique gives me lots of important information, especially about ubiquitinated proteins. However, it's a lot of qualitative data, and it can be difficult to quantify at times. Western blots are also very time consuming! ⏳

Do you have a music playlist to “chill and do research to” in the lab? If not, what genres or songs would you put in it?

I do have a lab playlist! I only pick music that makes me happy because I tend to get overwhelmed when I am in the lab. I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift, Bleachers, Jason Mraz, Tom Petty… 🎶

What is the most amount of Western blots you had to do in a day?

My PI limits us to four gels per day so that we can focus on them appropriately! But sometimes I blot for multiple proteins from one gel, so I could be blotting for up to 10 different proteins sometimes!

And the very last question, if you could travel to any place in the world, fictional or not, where would it be?

Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I would love to go snorkeling there 🤿.

Thank you very much, Chandler, for taking the time to have a #SciComm interview with us! It was fantastic getting to know you and getting to hear your stories about your journey in science, as well as advice for mental health! Feel free to check out Chandler on her inspirational instagram channel @gproteincoupledresearcher!

gproteincoupledresearcher Illustration

Our hope is that through these #SciComm features future scientists will be inspired by these science communicators to follow their passion, and be prepared to overcome challenges that lie ahead. Stay tuned for our upcoming #SciComm features to meet more inspiring scientists! 👩‍🔬

If you'd like to be featured on our #SciComm series, post a comment on our instagram channel,@abm_good, or any of our social media channels.

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