From Dinosaurs & Spaceships to Laboratory Research

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I have always been interested in science from a young age. This is due in part to my love of dinosaurs and spaceships when I was young then to getting interested in chemistry as I got older. What got me fascinated for chemistry were the various chemical reactions that my teachers performed to keep the class interested, which inspired me to learn what exactly happened in that reaction. From simple combustion reactions to acid base reactions, I began to consider a science career more seriously. I eventually pursued a degree in chemical engineering as it let me gain and utilize knowledge from chemistry, biology, mathematics and physics—-subjects that I have enjoyed.

At some point though, my motivation and interest was waning from working in a company. Perhaps it was just because everything I was doing at that point was routine, following a strict guideline in a way that most of my knowledge felt unnecessary, since many experiments I had to conduct had an expected result or were previously done so thoroughly that I did not have any meaningful contributions to make. However, by choosing to work in a research environment in the Montclare Lab, my interest and motivation was rekindled as I could contribute and continue to learn instead of stagnating.

The reason I choose science is because it’s a field where I can learn and use the knowledge I gain continuously. Science always has new discoveries to be made, new information that was previously unknown. The opportunity to do research is such a wonderful thing as I was able to learn many things in a short period of time and have a bit more freedom in planning out experiments as the procedures can be adjusted to suit the experiment, unlike in a company where most things were set in stone. I plan to continue pursuing a career in science and thanks to research; I can gain useful skills to follow through with my goals.

- Kazi Mahdi Helal

Check out @montclarelabs #ARISE HS students Janill & Jaffrey on @ConnectMinds #STEM TV series #ItAintRocketScience!

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I had fallen in love with a young man…, and we were planning to get married. And then he died of subacute bacterial endocarditis… Two years later with the advent of penicillin, he would have been saved. It reinforced in my mind the importance of scientific discovery….”—- Gertrude B. Elion

I have always been looking for a way to contribute to science. Growing up with a veterinarian father, I have developed a strong interested in Science, especially in medicine. In my early childhood, I used to hang around in my father’s clinic a lot, playing with his fancy instruments (well not actually playing) and mostly playing with the puppies and kittens there. I enjoyed taking care of sick animals, especially pre- and post-surgery. I liked to pat their heads with my little hand and brush their hair with my fingers. I believed my companionship would relieve their anxiety and speed up their recovery process.

As I grew up, my passion for medicine never faded away. When I started college, I decided to major in Biochemistry and started a career as a “professional science communicator” in a kids’ science museum. That was my first step of contributing to science—to teach children about science. While I did not know all of science, I could help inspire in others interest in science.

My long-term plans are to attend medical school and become an Anesthesiologist. I don’t take pain very well, and I would like to help people like me to relieve their anxiety and nervousness. I like traveling as well, so my ultimate goal in life is to become an Anesthesiologist that travels around the world to practice. While the path of medicine is long, I am willing to devote my whole life to it. Like Gertrude had once said: “Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily”.

 -Justine Wu

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The Bridge Builder

by Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway,

Came, at the evening cold and gray,

To a chasm vast and deep and wide.

Through which was flowing a sullen tide

The old man crossed in the twilight dim,

The sullen stream had no fear for him;

But he turned when safe on the other side

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,

“You are wasting your strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day,

You never again will pass this way;

You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,

Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followed after me to-day

A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been as naught to me

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

            The reason anyone is successful in science is because of the bridges that have been built before us. Bridges built by the scientists and researchers before us allow for our success and to build new bridges to constructed along the road of understanding and design.

            I am extremely grateful for the bridges that were built before I began building my bridges. Scientists like Marie Curie, James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Crick have laid the path for me and millions of other scientists. However, I am extremely grateful for the bridges that were built for me by those scientists who have had a more direct impact on my scientific career: my advisor, Professor Jin Montclare, and my fellow lab mates.

            Approximately a year ago, I was given the opportunity of a life time. Professor Montclare sent out an email asking who would be interested in going to the New York University campus in Abu Dhabi. It was the motivating words of my lab mates that convinced my to consider it, and a quick text message of support from my older brother to convince me to say, “yes”.

            When I would tell people the opportunity that was offered to me, they would laud my abilities to have earned this opportunity. In reality, I was just crossing a bridge that was laid before me by Professor Montclare and my mentor in the lab, ChingYao Yang. Of course, I am still extremely grateful to have crossed that bridge.

            I have been back from Abu Dhabi exactly one month now. It was an extraordinary experience. Though it was often frustrating, I learned a lot of new science, practiced new techniques, and made some amazing connections. It was not just that I expanded my scientific mind, but also my world and cultural mind.

            Opportunity is the amazing gift that science has to offer any one willing to explore the limits of human knowledge. Those opportunities only come from the bridges that were built before you. More often than not, you will know who built the bridges that you have traversed in your scientific life, and though you may not receive an opportunity like mine, always take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.

            Trust me, you won’t regret it.

-Andrew Olsen, PhD Student, Materials Chemistry, Montclare Lab

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The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. -Albert Einstein

Science has been incredibly interesting to me since my school days or I should say since I stumbled into biology as I was running away from mathematics. To avoid mathematics, I chose to focus on biology in 8th grade.

‘When I was young, I was asked, “What do you want to be?’ My answer was to be ‘a doctor’, even though I began to develop a growing passion for research and not medicine. As I grew older and figured out how many years it would take for me to become a successful doctor of medicine with half a dozen of degrees and certificates, I drifted away from medical school aspirations and focused on ‘Biotechnology’. Little did I know that it would take the same amount of time for me to be a successful ‘doctor’, this time not ‘of medicine’.

After getting half way through high school, drawing inspiration from my scientist aunt, I wanted to become a scientist without going through the years of education required for attaining a PhD. I then pursued Biotechnology ‘Engineering’, deluding myself that with an engineering degree, I would be a scientist. Soon after I graduated I entered the real world of research and started working a Junior Research Fellow at a highly valued National Institute of Immunology, back in India in the heart of New Delhi. At first I thought I was not meant for this, however slowly, as I understood what I was doing, I began to question ‘why’ and ‘how’ and became immersed with science. The simultaneous simplicity and complexity of nature is something which I would say astonishes everyone who dreams of science.  

Getting myself into a master’s program was the 1st step towards chasing my dream of being a ‘doctor’ which, for so many years I had being running away from. I will always be grateful to Dr. Kanwaljit Kaur at NII as she helped me to stop fighting my own dreams and chase them as well as Prof. Montclare, who put my misconceptions to rest . It’s with the opportunity given by her, that I aspire to be like her, a young scientist, constantly working towards being the best.

From all of this, I understand that science is the most beautiful experience we could have as quoted by Einstein. I’ve learned that running away from your dreams will lead to you back to them. Ultimately, your buried dreams will come true.

-Nikita Srivastava

jkmontclare:

Thoughts on the double bind situation for women leaders.
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." — Maya Angelou
It is with this mission in mind that I am in the midst of a leadership development program for women.  Rather than take my insights and share it with just my colleagues at my own institution, I thought to share my thoughts with all of you on this blog, in the hope that it can help others as well.
As part of this program, I have learned about the “double-bind” situation women leaders often face.  This situation is linked to gender stereotypes in which women are thought to be “caretakers” while men are the ones who “take charge.”  When women assume the role of “caretakers”, then they are not perceived as leaders whereas if they “take charge”, they are often cast in a negative light as it is gender inconsistent.  Thus, women leader are: 1) perceived as too soft or too tough; 2) subjected to higher standards and lower rewards than their male counterparts; and 3) viewed as competent but disliked.  
This problem will continue to exist unless the individual and institution recognizes this and embrace awareness as well as address the stereotypes.  
For those of you women progressing towards leadership or already in that role, there are things you can do to mitigate the inherent gender stereotype.  The following below provides important action items that require speaking up and standing your ground.  
1)   Bring the issue out in the open especially if the situation is inequitable or inappropriate. Bring light to it so that it doesn’t happen to you or others again.
2)   Be visible and look for highly visible/important assignments and express your views at meetings.  You have worked hard and you know what you are doing, so make others see that.
3)   Be clear and let others know what you want in terms of career and tasks. Always ask questions and seek advice.
4)   Divert the attention away from gender.
While these action items require more activity, it is important to do so as otherwise the gender stereotype will continue and it will continue to impact you and other women negatively.
The institution can make a significant impact for women by doing the following:
1)   Increase the awareness of women leaders’ skills and the issues of subtle stereotypic perceptions.
2)   Actually assess the environment at the workplace and identify how they are at risk of gender bias.
3)   Implement work practices that target such biases especially addressing specific areas of risk.
I recognize that as individuals you may not have the ability to influence your institution/company to take on these practices, however, it may be possible to develop a network of others sympathetic to women/stereotype bias outside and within the institution.  The more you are able to network with others, the better support you will have to perhaps effect a change institutionally.  
It was not until I read about the “double bind” situation that I realized how much of it resonated with me as an academic and as I think back on my road towards my current position.  Just reading about it helped me put things in perspective and hope it helps you.
—Jin Montclare

jkmontclare:

Thoughts on the double bind situation for women leaders.

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." — Maya Angelou

It is with this mission in mind that I am in the midst of a leadership development program for women.  Rather than take my insights and share it with just my colleagues at my own institution, I thought to share my thoughts with all of you on this blog, in the hope that it can help others as well.

As part of this program, I have learned about the “double-bind” situation women leaders often face.  This situation is linked to gender stereotypes in which women are thought to be “caretakers” while men are the ones who “take charge.”  When women assume the role of “caretakers”, then they are not perceived as leaders whereas if they “take charge”, they are often cast in a negative light as it is gender inconsistent.  Thus, women leader are: 1) perceived as too soft or too tough; 2) subjected to higher standards and lower rewards than their male counterparts; and 3) viewed as competent but disliked. 

This problem will continue to exist unless the individual and institution recognizes this and embrace awareness as well as address the stereotypes. 

For those of you women progressing towards leadership or already in that role, there are things you can do to mitigate the inherent gender stereotype.  The following below provides important action items that require speaking up and standing your ground. 

1)   Bring the issue out in the open especially if the situation is inequitable or inappropriate. Bring light to it so that it doesn’t happen to you or others again.

2)   Be visible and look for highly visible/important assignments and express your views at meetings.  You have worked hard and you know what you are doing, so make others see that.

3)   Be clear and let others know what you want in terms of career and tasks. Always ask questions and seek advice.

4)   Divert the attention away from gender.

While these action items require more activity, it is important to do so as otherwise the gender stereotype will continue and it will continue to impact you and other women negatively.

The institution can make a significant impact for women by doing the following:

1)   Increase the awareness of women leaders’ skills and the issues of subtle stereotypic perceptions.

2)   Actually assess the environment at the workplace and identify how they are at risk of gender bias.

3)   Implement work practices that target such biases especially addressing specific areas of risk.

I recognize that as individuals you may not have the ability to influence your institution/company to take on these practices, however, it may be possible to develop a network of others sympathetic to women/stereotype bias outside and within the institution.  The more you are able to network with others, the better support you will have to perhaps effect a change institutionally. 

It was not until I read about the “double bind” situation that I realized how much of it resonated with me as an academic and as I think back on my road towards my current position.  Just reading about it helped me put things in perspective and hope it helps you.

—Jin Montclare

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Every year on March 8, we celebrate International Working Women’s Day (IWD). However, IWD was originally instituted as a day for militancy and action. Now, liberal institutions and feminist organizations recognize International Women’s Day, and work towards measures to end bias. Each year in different regions of the world, IWD is celebrated by raising the issues of bias and forming legislations for women’s rights. Seldom do we hear from girl next door who is enjoying science and making accomplishments that she is proud of.

I hail from a country where the births of girls were considered the biggest crime. In a male dominated country, female death was as common as rains in a rainy season. But this is all myth for me. Things have changed drastically in the past 50 years. I have an elder sister and a younger brother and my father never discriminated among us. In fact, my father is my inspiration to move towards science and research. It’s because of his persistence that I came New York to pursue Master’s in Biology. Even while working as a software engineer in a team of 15 male members and one other female member, I never complained nor was ever mis-treated. I even led a team of my seniors for project completion, based on my caliber and experience in the particular domain.

At NYU, I am currently working as Graduate Research Assistant at Montclare lab. When I joined the Lab, I was inspired by the energy and passion of each member. The lab has almost same ratio of male and female members and the amazing thing is that it is led by a female professor – Dr. Jin Montclare. She is genuinely open, warm and unbiased person who want to see the students succeed. She is willing to give the students the opportunity to explore the diverse research environment, irrespective of their degree or gender. The working environment is highly conducive to high quality research. My fellow male candidates never made me feel unwanted in research.

"If the bringing of women - half the human race - into the center of historical inquiry poses a formidable challenge to historical scholarship, it also offers sustaining energy and a source of strength."

Very accurately summarized by Dr. Gerda Lerner in an interview to Journal of American History, 1982. Women have contributed in all the ways there are to the technical advancement of humanity. They held the same burdens of scholarship as the men did, and they accomplished just as much. What strikes me most is that the statement is gender unbiased, i.e, a woman is shown equal to man.

Writing this blog on International Women month\week, gives me the opportunity to thank each and every male member in my life who has somewhere realized me that it’s my own capabilities and notion that would take me ahead in my life. If ever I have been victim of gender discrimination or been deprived of an opportunity, I would like to thank them for doing so as it made me work harder to excel.

Happy international Women day to each and everyone!

 -Ekta Sharma 

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Similar to a blind man, a scientist greatest wish is to visually appreciate the wonders that lie in the colors of the rainbow
My desire to pursue science was not inspired by my parents’ occupation or someone that worked in that profession. Similar to other children growing up, I was exposed to the typical careers such as doctor, lawyer and business. In fact, it was not until I reached the age of maybe 20 that I became aware of what science is or being officially introduced to a certified scientist. For the latter, I was perplexed when it was made known that my biology professor is a scientist; perplexed because I was accustomed by society to recognize scientists as individuals who wear lab coat while working in labs.
Thus, where does my desire to pursue science came from? Well, it started when I was in 4th grade when I encountered the illustration of a plant in a science textbook. Maybe it was the artistic drawing of the plant that captivated me. After all, it was rare to find drawings or pictures of organisms in such artistic details in my other textbooks. However, thinking a little bit deeper, even if I did encounter illustration of plants as in much artistic details in my other textbooks, there was one major distinction that separated that science textbook from the rest; it explained the nature and inner workings of plants. My perception of a plant was never the same after that encounter. My perception of a plant has changed from something that’s simply green to something that is intrinsically complex and composed of many different aspects. 
As I get older while obtaining a higher education in science, I developed a fascination for life at the molecular level. As an undergrad I was fascinated by organic chemistry and microbiology. Microbiology opened my eyes to the exciting world of cellular organisms and organic chemistry showed me the mechanistic aspects of a cellular organism’s internal operations. From that point, I started to recognize gradually the chemical reactions that are responsible for the inner workings of organisms and also begin to understand the vast improvement in society that can be made by further understanding the molecules that orchestrate these reactions
Thus, from holding on to this fascination, I am currently in my last year as a master’s student in biotechnology and a member of the Montclare lab. In regarding the former, I am interested in pursuing a career in the biotech/pharmaceutical company. In regarding the latter, in my heart the Montclare lab will always be special because it is the most supportive scientific environment I have ever been a part of. While it is true that I have been part of good labs before, however, it was not until I became a member of the Montclare lab that I felt like a scientist. A scientist not because of a fascination toward a scientific subject, but a scientist because for the first time I felt like I researched and contributed toward the greatest gift that a man can hold-Knowledge.
-Rudy Jacquet 

Our research collaboration with Seiichi Yamano at NYUCD is highlighted!