My pronouns are she/her/hers
What is your current career stage? With which institutions and departments are you affiliated, and what position(s) do you hold?
I’m junior faculty, with a primary appointment as Assistant Professor at the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University. I am also affiliated as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Who were/are your past scientific mentors?
Mentors of all sorts have guided me in my science and my career, although there are a handful that have impacted me in ways that I can only hope to pay forward. Of course, there’s my PhD advisor Corey Neu and postdoc advisor Anna Plaas, both of whom I can reach out to at any time of day (Rest assured, I use these great powers with great responsibility). I can talk to David Corr about mechanics, outreach, teaching, etc. for hours at a time and am infinitely thankful for the generosity of his time and advice. I’d be remiss to not name Chris Hernandez, who’s has been an ever-supportive “unofficial” mentor since I was an undergrad. And, finally, I really want to give a shout out to the collective wisdom of the vibrant community of early career faculty on New PI Slack.
Can you give us a brief overview of your research?
My long-term research goal is to understand the relationship between mechanics and the extracellular matrix, especially the mechanisms that maintain tissue homeostasis and drive degeneration and disease. I’m interested in how these relationships manifest in the synovial joint and use techniques in soft tissue biomechanics, hyaluronan biology, and biomedical imaging to probe these interactions. I also have a “side” interest in how mechanics and biology interact in the living brain.
How did you get involved in orthopaedic research?
I had a close friend in undergrad who worked in a lab that sounded really cool, so I applied for funding to join the group! I got rejected for the undergraduate scholarship to do research, but made it in on my second try! Longer term, I stayed in research because I kept finding new questions that I (or the field) didn’t know the answers to yet.
How has the ORS supported you?
It’s been a great venue for sharing and learning great science and nurturing relationships with mentors and mentees and growing a professional network.
What is your favorite thing about the ORS?
My favorite thing is never being the smartest person in the room! This is a brilliant, driven community of scholars at every level, and – honestly – I’m constantly intimidated (in a good way!) by them.
Why do you believe diversity and inclusion is important?
Justice and equity should really be the only reasons anyone needs. But when that’s not enough for some audiences, I try to remind them that:
- Diversity is excellence. Inclusion is how we progress as a profession and a society.
- As engineers, we’re not doing our jobs if our designs do not serve everyone equitably and include stakeholders from as many perspectives and experiences as possible.
- As scientists, we’re not considering all the variables and variations if we do not take into account the diversity of the human condition. And, let’s be honest: we are only deceiving ourselves when we don’t recognize that science is an inherently human endeavor, with accompanying behaviors, biases, and barriers that must be continually corrected.
What are your career goals?
Broadly speaking, I want to leave this world better than I found it. In research, that means uncovering just a smidge of the immense and exquisite complexity of human health and disease. But, even more importantly, through research and teaching, I want to foster the learning and development of the next generation of biomedical engineers, scientists, and citizens.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your scientific career?
Feeling like I belong has long been a challenge to me, so it’s what motivates me to change the systems that explicitly or implicitly exclude. Being an introvert, first-gen, daughter of poor immigrants, etc. probably contributes to this feeling, but – then again – why should it? Let’s all challenge the status quo!
Any personal interests or hobbies you would like to share?
I picked up knitting when I needed something to fidget with during my hours of MRI scans in grad school and haven’t really put it down since. Unlike photography and other hobbies, yarn and needles are a lot more portable and MRI safe!
What personal advice would you give to new investigators starting out in the field?
Here are two things that I still struggle with, so this is just as much for myself as it is for other new investigators:
- Don’t confuse the pursuit of excellence with the scourge of perfectionism.
- You are enough! Yes, you’ll always have commitments and responsibilities that you’ll need to navigate throughout your life, but don’t let others dictate to you what success, work-life balance, etc. looks like for you. ORS – no, the world – needs you, as you are.