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S2E5: Jorge Ramos, PhD, Assoc. Dir. for Environmental Ed, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, Stanford University

Dr. Jorge Ramos is the Associate Director for Environmental Education at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve of Stanford University. Jorge earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Texas at El Paso and a Master of Science degree at the University of Washington. He then completed his PhD at Arizona State University where he studied biogeochemical cycling in wetland ecosystems. After his PhD, Jorge worked for the non-profit Conservation International, where he developed and managed coastal ecosystem conservation projects around the world. Jorge now combines his scientific expertise with his teaching and communication skills in his current job at Jasper Ridge.

Some of the things we talk about in this episode include:

  • The Ecological Society of America’s SEEDS program (Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability)
  • The difference between mentors and advisors
  • How being in academia can bias our idea of what types of jobs are available
  • Working as a scientist in a non-profit, including:
    • How to engage communities in conservation work
    • Attending the UN Climate Change Conference 
  • The benefits of teaching and learning in outdoor spaces
  • How frequently checking in with a community that reflects your values can help you figure out what you want to do in life
  • The importance of writing a lot

Get in touch with Jorge:

  • Email: jorge.ramos@stanford.edu
  • Twitter

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

Featured

Season 2 Episode 1: Michael Snyder, PhD, Stanford Ascherman Professor and Chair of Genetics Department, Stanford University

We’re back for season 2! For our first episode of the season, we’re hearing from Dr. Michael Snyder. He is the Stanford Ascherman Professor and Chair of Genetics and the Director of the Center of Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford University. Mike received his Ph.D. training at the California Institute of Technology and carried out postdoctoral training at Stanford University. He is a leader in the field of functional genomics and multiomics. His lab was the first to perform a large-scale functional genomics project in any organism, and has developed many technologies in genomics and proteomics. He launched the field of personalized medicine by combining different state-of–the-art “omics” technologies to perform the first longitudinal detailed integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) of a person, and his laboratory pioneered the use of wearables technologies (smart watches and continuous glucose monitoring) for precision health. He is a cofounder of many biotechnology companies, including Personalis, SensOmics, Qbio, January, Protos, Oralome, Mirvie and Filtricine.

In this episode, we talk about how Mike got started doing research, why he transitioned to doing more translational research, what some of the differences are between working in academia, start-ups, and pharma, and how the skills you learn as a scientist can be helpful no matter what career you choose.

Get in touch with Mike and the Snyder Lab research:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

S2E4: Shane Campbell-Staton, PhD, Assistant Professor, Princeton University

Dr. Shane Campbell-Staton is an Assistant Professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at Princeton University. Shane’s research looks at how human actions contribute to contemporary evolution of animals, including elephants, wolves, alligators, and anoles. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester, his PhD from Harvard University, and did his post-doctoral training at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne and the University of Montana. Shane got his first faculty position at UCLA, and recently moved to a new faculty position at Princeton.

Some of the things we talk about in this episode:

  • how science and nature documentaries and TV shows fostered Shane’s interest in science as a kid (which has come full circle, as Shane is now involved in making science and nature TV shows and documentaries himself)
  • why it’s important to fund basic science to help find solutions to problems in unexpected places
  • the responsibility of scientists to communicate science to the public
  • the value of storytelling in science
  • why feeling like we don’t know what we’re doing can actually be a good sign
  • how tardigrades could make good superheroes

Get in touch with Shane and check out the research in his lab:

Check out Shane’s latest paper on the evolution of tusklessness in elephants (get in touch if you want a PDF):

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

S2E3: Bryan Juarez, PhD, NSF Postdoc, Stanford University

This week on the podcast we are hearing from our first post-doc, Bryan Juarez. Bryan is a fellow amphibian-loving scientist who received his bachelors degree from UC Santa Barbara, his masters degree from the University of Michigan, and most recently his PhD from Iowa State University. After finishing his PhD, Bryan started a postdoc at Stanford University where he is co-mentored by Lauren O’Connell and Liz Hadley.

I knew I really wanted to have Bryan on the podcast when I heard about his thesis defense, which he held in both English and Spanish so that his parents – who he calls the heroes of his story – would feel included and could better understand his talk. I think this story is very emblematic of how Bryan thinks about inclusion and diversity in science more broadly. Bryan and I talk quite a bit in this interview about how important it is to understand the huge range of backgrounds that people are coming from when they’re entering into science, and how that may impact the way they think about themselves as scientists and how they may be perceived by the scientific community.

Get in touch with Bryan:

PLOS One Paper Bryan referenced: Postdocs’ advice on pursuing a research career in academia: A qualitative analysis of free-text survey responses

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

S2E2: Lauren O’Connell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Stanford University

Dr. Lauren O’Connell is an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Stanford University. She received an associates degree from Tarrant County Community College before transferring to Cornell University where she received her bachelors degree. Lauren then completed her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin and after that she went to Harvard where she was a Bauer Fellow. This program is a post-doctoral fellowship that funds independent research for five years and prepares post-docs to run their future labs. Lauren is now an assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Stanford University and the principal investigator of the Laboratory for Organismal Biology at Stanford University. 

In this episode, we discuss Lauren’s path to becoming a professor, some of the difficulties that community college students face when trying to get involved in research and STEM fields, what good mentorship looks like, the importance of having a life outside of work, and so much more.

Get in touch with Lauren and check out the research in LOBSU (Laboratory of Organismal Biology at Stanford University):

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

Episode 11: Priscilla San Juan

Try a bunch of stuff, and see which avenue you like the best.

Priscilla San Juan is a PhD candidate in Tad Fukami’s lab in the Biology Department at Stanford University. Priscilla is interested in the gut microbiome of wildlife and the impact that human activity is having on those microbial communities and the health of the animal host. She has had an appreciation of nature since she was young, but was unsure what career she should pursue since her interests were so varied. She explored the different topics and opportunities available at her community college and soon realized how fascinated she was with environmental science, the specialty she eventually pursued at UC Irvine. She has continued to explore the different facets of biology, from antibiotic resistance in environmental microbes to her current work in New Zealand where she is exploring the effects of captivity on the native kiwi’s microbiome and health.

Some of things we talk about in this episode include the value of testing out different types of research so that you can find something that you really like, and the huge impact that having a support network of peers and mentors can have on battling feelings of imposter syndrome that underrepresented minorities in STEM may feel.

Mentioned in the episode:

Get in touch with Priscilla:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

Episode 10: Nia Walker

“I can’t count on validation to come from someone else, it has to come from myself.”

Nia Walker is a fourth year PhD candidate in Steve Palumbi’s lab at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station.  Nia has been interested in marine science since doing a fourth grade squid dissection. Nia’s love of marine science continued on through college and a gap year working at the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut, and now she studies stress tolerance in corals in Palau. 

Some of things we talk about in this episode include how to identify a good mentorship network, the importance of prioritizing your own well-being, how being the first Black graduate student at Hopkins has influenced Nia’s experiences in grad school, and how creating one’s own definition of success can help us not compare ourselves to others as much, and thereby lead to greater satisfaction and more happiness.

Get in touch with Nia:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

Episode 9: Rebecca Hwang

“You are your own most important advocate – you’ve got to be on your own team.”

Rebecca Hwang is an electrical engineer working at Anello Photonics. Rebecca started at Stanford as an electrical engineering PhD student, but isn’t totally sure that a PhD is for her, which is something we talk about quite a bit in this episode. She got her masters and is currently taking a break from Stanford to get some experience working in industry and spend some time thinking about whether she wants to come back to finish her PhD. 

In this episode we talk about how grad school isn’t all just about the research – you learn lots of soft skills along the way too. We also talk about how to reframe your perspective when facing tough situations and the fact that you can do anything you want as long as you’re willing to fail and get back up again.  

For anyone out there wondering whether a PhD is for you, this episode will be especially useful as Rebecca is thinking through a lot of those things herself.

Get in touch with Rebecca:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

Episode 8: Chris Perez

“Start early, pick your friends wisely, [and] identify mentors.”

Chris Perez is a fourth year graduate student in the NanoHeat Lab (PI Kenneth Goodson) in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University. Chris started his engineering journey many years ago, helping his dad fix things around the house, and when he realized he might want to pursue something like this as a career, he went to community college to take some classes to become an auto technician. While there, his professors saw all sorts of promise in him and encouraged him to go to UCLA for his bachelor’s degree. Chris excelled at UCLA as well, and was encouraged by his undergraduate research PI to pursue graduate school. Chris eventually made his way to Stanford, where he now studies nanoscale heat transfer. In this episode, we talk about the importance of community, the value of good mentorship, and how it’s super necessary to have some good self care practices in place as a PhD student. 

Get in touch with Chris:

  • Email: cprez@stanford.edu

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

  • Email: rootstostempodcast@gmail.com
  • Website: rootstostempodcast.com

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Episode 7: Aurora Alvarez-Buylla

“Science is awesome, but life comes first.”

Aurora Alvarez-Buylla is a fourth year graduate student in the Laboratory of Organismal Biology at Stanford University, studying how poison frogs take up toxins from their diet to become toxic themselves. In this episode, we talk with Aurora about how she transitioned from wanting to be an astronomer as a kid, to doing computer science in college at MIT, to eventually finding her way to pursuing a biology PhD at Stanford. We talk about how to figure out the difference between not liking something because you aren’t good at it and not liking something because you truly don’t enjoy it. Aurora is really passionate about using community building in order to make all students in her department feel welcomed and included, and in this episode she shares some of her unique insights into identity, inclusion, and diversity.

Mentioned in the episode:

  • Aurora is an HHMI Gilliam Fellow! Find out more about that here.

Get in touch with Aurora:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

Listen and subscribe:

Episode 6: Billie Goolsby

“This gives you a unique perspective as a scientist that’s actually really important…it’s not you overcoming these challenges, but more like you make science better.”

Billie Goolsby is a second year graduate student in the Laboratory of Organismal Biology at Stanford University, studying how poison frogs co-parent their offspring. Before going to college, Billie knew she enjoyed the open-ended question asking that science allowed, but wasn’t sure exactly what being a scientist looked like. In college, Billie participated in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program at Boston University and through that, found a lab studying neuroethology in ants. Billie’s love of understanding animal sociality and the neuroscience behind it has led her to where she is now, studying neuroethology in poison frogs. Billie is hard of hearing, and in this episode we talk about how this has impacted her experiences as a scientist, as well as how we can make science more inclusive and welcoming for people of all abilities. We also talk more broadly about how to talk about disability, and how to be a good advocate and ally for others.

Mentioned in the episode:

Get in touch with Billie:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

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Episode 5: Eduardo Tassoni

“This was actually the second time I was going abroad for more than a week – the first time was that three month internship, the second time was interviews, which was a week long, and then the third time is living abroad for my PhD for 4, 5, 6 years.”

Eduardo Tassoni is a third year graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University, studying cellular stress mechanisms in Onn Brandman’s lab in the biochemistry department. Eduardo is from São Paulo, Brazil, and in this episode we talk about how this has influenced his trajectory as a scientist, and how being an international student impacts his experiences as a grad student in the US. Eduardo tells us about how difficult it can be to live so far away from family and friends, especially during this time of COVID-19, when there is lots of uncertainty about when he’ll be able to travel home again. Even with challenges like these, Eduardo encourages all international students who want to come to the US for grad school to apply, and to not feel like it is outside the realm of possibility. We also talk about how Eduardo got started doing research in his undergrad, and how simply being bold and asking for what he wanted has opened up lots of opportunities for him, including the internship that would ultimately start his journey to Stanford.

Get in touch with Eduardo:

  • Twitter
  • Email: etassoni@stanford.edu

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with the podcast:

Listen and subscribe:

Episode 4: Nora Moskowitz

“Therapy is a tool that I use that actually helps me both feel better and excel at my work.” 

Nora Moskowitz is a third year PhD candidate in the Laboratory of Organismal Biology at Stanford University, where she studies dietary preference in poison frogs. Nora is a huge proponent of mental wellbeing both in her department and in her lab, so in addition to hearing Nora’s story into science, we also spend a lot of this episode talking about mental health. Nora tells us about her experiences with mental health in grad school, including having to leave a field season early in order to prioritize her mental health. In this episode, Nora gives us a lot of really practical advice for how to maintain mental wellbeing in grad school, along with some recommendations that Principal Investigators (PIs) could implement in order to help their students.

Get in touch with Nora:

Get in touch with Steph:

Get in touch with us:

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Episode 3: Daniel Shaykevich

“I think the other lesson I learned was that science needs good storytelling as part of it.” 

Daniel Shaykevich is a third year graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University and a talented filmmaker who incorporates science into his art and art into his science. Daniel tells us about how he has gotten from his early stages of experimenting with plants in his bathtub to where he is now, studying the neurobiology of spatial navigation in cane toads as a PhD candidate at Stanford. He has had lots of fun along the way, including an internship at a Hollywood production company and lots of close encounters with all sorts of wildlife in the tropical rainforests of Ecuador and French Guiana. This conversation with Daniel reminds us all to take advantage of the tools and resources right around us to accomplish our goals, whether those goals are conducting experiments, making films, or anything else. 

Mentioned in the episode:

Follow Daniel:

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Episode 2: Magdalena Warren

“It doesn’t matter what your background is or who your parents are or what the color of your skin is, you can do whatever it is you want to do.”

Magdalena (Maggie) Warren is a third year PhD student in the biology department at Stanford University, and also the co-host of this podcast! Maggie tells us the story of how she went from being a straight-A student in high school to failing classes in college, taking a few years off and working, then going back to school and getting her degree from Cal State Dominguez Hills. Now Maggie is at Stanford, studying the microbiota of honey bees as a graduate student in Tad Fukami’s lab. In this episode, Maggie talks about situations where she has been discouraged from pursuing her goals and the mentality that she has that helps her carry on despite those obstacles. We also discuss the importance of having mentors and advocates to help us advance in our educations and careers. Maggie is so full of amazing advice, so prepare for an episode full of inspiration and motivation. 

Mentioned in the episode: 

Contact us: 

Contact Maggie:

  • mlwarren@stanford.edu

Follow Steph:

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Episode 1: Introduction to Roots to STEM

This our first ever episode of the Roots to STEM podcast, a podcast where we talk to scientists about the paths they’ve taken to get where they are today. In this episode, we discuss how Steph came up with the idea for this podcast and how Maggie got involved along the way. We also talk about what you can expect in future episodes. Expect to see episodes coming out every other week.

Contact us: 

Listen and Subscribe: