When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Describe your research in five words.
“Crowdsourcing solicits valuable health information.”
I flipped between doctor and mathematician for many years. My dad worked in immunology and dentistry, and he often brought home clean petri dishes and test tubes. He would encourage me to mix different soaps from the bathroom and food coloring from the kitchen. Along with being lab partners, my dad and I were a dynamic math duo. At restaurants that used paper tablecloths, we would write riddles and number patterns for the other to solve. I think his ability to make math and science creative and enjoyable made me want to pursue STEM.
Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.
When I was a freshman in high school, I spent Thanksgiving break tucked away under the covers at my grandparent’s house, watching my first TED talk. I was enthralled with how DNA constructs art, how Ken Jennings memorizes trivia, and how teaching kids to code can impact their futures. The more TED talks I watched, the more I realized I needed to integrate research into my career.
What’s an interesting thing that’s happened during your research?
In November 2015, I joined the Joint Applied Math and Marine Sciences Fluids Lab and had my first experience with uncontrolled experiments outside the classroom. I researched how particles behave when falling through fluid layers of different densities. I learned how to work with mentors, manage my time when conducting experiments, and practice lab etiquette.
During the second part of my freshman year, I received the opportunity to work for UNC Project-China in the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases. This experience was very different than the fluids lab because a lot of the work was conducted through data analysis and literary searches on my laptop, with planned Skype calls to discuss progress with team members stationed in England, China, and the USA. I realized that I was more interested in this public health work than applied mathematics. It was a hard decision, but I ultimately decided to change labs to focus more of my time on crowdsourcing research.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?
Ask for help and say “yes” to the opportunities that come your way. Find strong female research mentors who have experience in completing difficult STEM classes and finding research positions.