Kaitlin Baird, Women in an H2O World: Girl Power in Science (3), March 16, 2013

Rachael Heuer

Rachael Heuer- Doctoral Student/Research Scientist
Rachael Heuer- Doctoral Student/Research Scientist

Job Title: Graduate Student, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami
Division: Marine Biology and Fisheries
PhD Research area: Fish physiological response to ocean acidification

What She does:
Rachael is a third year graduate student researching the impacts of future predicted oceanic carbon dioxide levels on marine fish. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are increasing, the ocean is taking up more CO2, making it more acidic and causing potential challenges for a variety of organisms. Most of her research is conducted in a laboratory setting, where she is able to manipulate seawater to mimic future predicted conditions and see how this affects the physiology of fish. She is responsible for performing the experiments, analyzing the data, and making sure her results are shared with other scientists.

Favorite Aspect of job:
Rachael’s favorite part of the job is performing experiments that could help others better predict what may happen to fish populations in the future as our oceans become more acidic. She enjoys carefully planning out controlled experiments to look at how a fish’s body is responding to high CO2 levels. She also enjoys traveling to conferences where she can learn the most up-to-date information in the field from other students and scientists.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
Rachael received a degree in Zoology, but ended up conducting research in Marine Biology. Having good grades and a general science background is important, but prospective employers and supervisors are most interested in your experience and passion for the subject. Rachael’s best advice for students considering a career in science is to immerse yourself in the scientific process by volunteering agency or a scientist to get an idea of all aspects of the job. The variety of research that can be conducted on the ocean is very broad, so it is important to find the subject that interests you the most. Rachael also spent three years teaching high school science prior to beginning a graduate degree, which showed her the importance of communicating science with the public.

Julia Lawson

Julia Lawson- Graduate Student/Researcher (Marine Biology/Conservation)
Julia Lawson- Graduate Student/Researcher (Marine Biology/Conservation)

Job Title:
MSc Student with Project Seahorse
Zoology Department/Fisheries Centre
The University of British Columbia

What She does:
Seahorses are little fish that are heavily harvested for their use in traditional Chinese medicine, the aquarium trade and curiosities. Scientists estimate that as many as 20 million individuals are traded annually, yet very little is known about seahorse basic biology, which has made it difficult to determine how seahorse populations are responding to this harvest. My research focuses on seahorses in Thailand, the largest exporter of seahorses globally. I will be using life history parameters like number of offspring produced, seahorse sex, size and reproductive state to determine how susceptible seahorses are to the current harvest. The results from my study will be used to assist Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia in developing better management plans for seahorses.

Favorite Aspect of job:
I am always amazed and surprised by coral reef ecosystems, and love watching and learning new things about coral reef fish and invertebrates. I only began working with coral reefs in Bermuda in 2008 and since then I have seen so many amazing things and learned so much. From learning in Bermuda that surgeonfish get their name because of a tiny ‘scalpel’ on the base of their tail, to swimming with manta rays, seeing a tiger shark and hearing humpback whales in Australia, every day in the field is full of surprises.

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:
I completed my undergraduate degree at Dalhousie University, where I was also a student in the Science Co-op Program. The Co-op program allowed students to alternate work terms with academic terms, gaining hands-on work experience. While in the program, I spent two semesters interning at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences where I completed my honours research on coral reef reproduction and recruitment. My internships in Bermuda opened many doors for me, especially since i earned my AAUS Science Diver certification. After graduating I worked as a research assistant in the Bahamas looking at invasive lionfish, I worked for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans analyzing deep sea sponges on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and most recently I worked as a research assistant for the University of Queensland on Heron Island with a PhD student looking at surgeonfish grazing impacts. Not being afraid to go to new places and try new things is critical, and using connections from previous experiences has helped me expand my research experience.

Stacey Goldberg

Stacey Goldberg- Student and Researcher
Stacey Goldberg- Graduate Student/Researcher  (Marine Biology/immunology and natural product/drug discovery)

Job Title:

Ph.D. Graduate Student
University of Prince Edward Island
Biomedical Sciences/Marine Natural Products

What She does:


Marine natural products, otherwise known as secondary metabolites, are structurally complex chemical compounds with well-defined biological targets.  They provide a validated starting point for drug discovery as a chemical scaffolds.  As the need for new drugs becomes vital to combat multidrug resistant pathogens, marine natural products research is on the rise.  This area of science seemed a clear direction for me to pursue due to my interests in a combination of subjects including marine biology, immunology, and biochemistry.  I am currently completing my first year as a graduate student at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) in the Biomedical Sciences Department within the Atlantic Veterinary College.  I am working in the lab of Dr. Russell Kerr, a leading marine natural product scientist, alongside an exceptional group of faculty, scientists and students.  My research will focus on the assessment of marine sponges and their associated microbiota to produce bioactive halogenated natural products, and to investigate the biosynthetic origin of these metabolites.

 

Favorite Aspect of job
:

More than anything, I appreciate the process of scientific investigation.  As a graduate student, I am already learning the tools necessary to critically evaluate, think creatively and independently, and establish clear objectives.  I enjoy feeling a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when being involved in the completion of a project in order to address a question or hypothesis.  It took some time to discover my version of a “dream job”, which utilizes biotechnological advancement for the purposes of exploring our oceans to exploit novel chemistry for potential therapeutic applications.  Such is why I chose marine natural products research to further my education, as I my biggest hope is to make some small contribution to science and quality of human life.  And, scuba diving to collect marine specimens for my research is not bad either.

 

What type of schooling/experience do you think best set you up for this job:

There are a few key experiences/positions that I think best prepare me for being a successful scientist.  Some of my experience includes working as a research technician at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in the cancer research department, and working as research scientist in the immunology department at a non-profit Tuberculosis vaccine development company.  Just prior to entrance into my current program, I participated in a graduate internship at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) with Florida Atlantic University (FAU).  I worked in the Biomedical Research Department under the mentorship of Dr. Esther Guzmán and Dr. Amy Wright, a distinguished marine natural products chemist.  It was designed to provide hands-on experience in a research environment in areas that include immunology, drug development, and marine natural product chemistry.  It was a perfect segue into my current graduate studies program, and an exceptional experience that assisted in honing in on my true career and life goals, to be a better scientist and genuinely challenge myself.

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