Greetings! My name is Bethanie Statler and I am a PhD candidate in molecular biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). The department of biological sciences at UIC includes a variety of fields including neuroscience, cellular & developmental biology, and ecology & evolution. The research we conduct can range from trying to understand the most basic cellular processes to trying to restore animal and plant diversity in tropical landscapes.
I was drawn to molecular biology ever since I learned about the complex processes that occur within each of our cells and allow us to function every day. Cell research has led to immense advancements in understanding how genes are passed from parent to child, how diseases can spread and influence the body, and how medicine can combat those diseases. I enjoy conducting research that could potentially expand our knowledge about improving human health.
Outside of being a graduate student, I am passionate about volunteering in ways that contribute to younger generations. I try to combine my passions for both science and volunteering by encouraging students to pursue STEM. As a biracial woman in science, I am also aware of the disparity in the number of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM. As such, I was thrilled to join Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Chicago because they focus on empowering underrepresented girls to explore STEM. During my first EYH conference, I served as a buddy – a volunteer who accompanies a small group of girls to their STEM workshops. I felt reminiscent to see such authentic curiosity lead the girls to ask some of the wildest questions. Their excitement reminded me of the same curiosity I felt when discovering STEM at their age. They left each workshop already enthusiastic to participate in the next hands-on activity which would expose them to a new topic and role model.
At the end of that first conference, the auditorium was roaring with excitement and satisfaction. I was moved to join the organizing committee which works behind the scenes to plan our annual symposium. On the organizing committee, I document EYH events through photos and videos to share our mission via social media. Because every committee member has a different background and perspective, we are able to combine our skills and ideas together in ways which allow EYH Chicago to grow. I love being a part of a group in which everyone is equally passionate about hosting a fun and inspiring STEM experience for young girls. I genuinely hope and believe that EYH Chicago has a positive influence on their future.
After graduation, my career goal is to become a professor at a university where I will teach biology, train graduate students, and oversee programs that recruit and retain underrepresented students in college. I strive to be an influential role model and educator who motivates students and advocates for the inclusion of researchers from various backgrounds to bring new perspectives that will advance science. As such, EYH Chicago continues to be a great volunteer opportunity for me!