Postdoctoral Associate in Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh
What career did you imagine yourself in as young girl? I always thought I would be some sort of scientist. Science classes and science fairs were always my favorite!
Was there a particular person or event that influenced your career choice? My high school science teacher greatly influenced my love for science. I may not have realized it at the time, but projects like creating a collection of 100 unique pressed wildflowers or labeling all the bones of a human skeleton were providing the groundwork for a career that requires perseverance and good documentation skills.
What do you wear to work? Typically, I wear business casual to casual clothing to work, but sometimes scrubs or a lab coat depending on the situation.
What is a typical day like at your job? Most of the time, I can be found sitting at my desk in the laboratory, writing proposals and analyzing data. I might spend a few hours feeding and caring for cells I have growing in the incubator or taking pictures of those cells using a microscope. A few hours of each day are also spent caring for the mice, rats, and rabbits we use for animal models of human disease.
Coffee Shop Drink of Choice: Brewed coffee with flavored syrup and half & half.
Bio: I grew up in a small town in West Virginia, and by the time I was 18, I was ready for somewhere bigger. I went off to the University of Kentucky, a huge state school of almost 30,000 students. Originally, I wanted to be a chemical engineer and work in the pharmaceutical research industry, but I soon discovered chemical engineering classes were really challenging! I also began to feel a little overwhelmed at such a big university. I soon found the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, a small department offering a specialization in Biomedical Engineering. I had finally found my place in a big school. I completed my BSEng degree, while working in different medical research labs and being a member of the ¼ Scale Tractor Team, an engineering design team competing in international events.
After completing my BSEng, I came to the University of Pittsburgh for my PhD in Bioengineering. My dissertation focused on the use of skeletal muscle-derived stem cells for bone repair. My research was an interesting mix of biology, engineering and orthopaedics and led directly into my current position as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Plastic Surgery at University of Pittsburgh. Our laboratory is currently studying the condition of heterotopic ossification, which is the formation of bones in the wrong location, like in the muscles or other soft tissues. Heterotopic ossification is currently a relevant topic because it is a common complication of soldiers’ battlefield injuries. Our laboratory is focused finding the cause of heterotopic ossification following traumatic injury in order to establish a treatment for these wounded warriors.
Outside of the lab, I like to spend my time knitting, running and exploring Pittsburgh restaurants.