San Diegan born, Heather grew up near several major research centers and universities. Her mother promoted her involvement in various science camps and other experience-based programs for children. In what Heather calls “a serendipitous turn of fate,” she attended Expanding Your Horizons event in California. Heather remembers, being surrounded by other girls her age who thought science was cool and described it as a magical experience. Having her on the Organizing Committee for EYH Chicago allows her to deeply connect with local girls in STEM to open their minds to the possibility of pursuing a career in the STEM field.
Heather became increasingly interested in science as a teenager, wherein she decided she wanted to become a neuroscientist. Her childhood STEM experiences and neuroscience-related labs in high school, made it easy for her to pursue the neuroscience major in her undergraduate career. Heather said, “I loved being able to learn about the brain,” and is even more curious about aspects of the brain yet to be discovered. Working in neuroscience research labs and managing her own projects gave Heather the experience and interest to apply to neuroscience graduate programs. She is now a neurobiology PhD student at the University of Chicago, a university which has helped EYH Chicago host our annual STEM symposium for several years.
At the University of Chicago, Heather summarizes her research best: “I study learning, memory, and decision-making by teaching mice to play virtual reality video games, then I use light to see and change their brain activity.” Heather most enjoys producing and discovering new information about our world – more specifically, mammalian brains. In the future, Heather is interested in becoming a professor in order to teach students and manage a lab at a research university, but she maintains an open mind about science communication or policy. Regardless of her eventual career path, she pledges to “continue with outreach and making sure people know that science is for everyone.”
Fortunately, Heather’s family has a history of women in STEM who have served as role models in her personal life. She continued to have beneficial mentors of both genders during her lab experiences in high school and college. In the Columbia Neuroscience Society, Heather chose to give back by organizing mentoring events for young people interested in neuroscience. She continues to advocate for science, communication, and understanding through the Society for Neuroscience and Soapbox Science, in addition to EYH Chicago.
“The EYH event gives girls space to be as nerdy as they want, and for them to feel accepted and feel some of the wonder of science.” Heather looks forward to helping create this inclusive space for girls to get hands-on experience with STEM. She would like to introduce and foster a community where girls can connect and support one another beyond the event. Welcome to the team, Heather!