Cool Girls with Tag: biology

Dr. Karen Wilcox

Name: Dr. Karen Wilcox
Hometown: New Milford, NJ
Occupation: Department Chair at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, Principle Investigator of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program

Dr. Karen Wilcox is a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Utah, and the director of an anticonvulsant drug development program. When she’s not combing over new data with her students and postdoctoral trainees in the lab, she’s going to meetings, and trying to answer the copious emails she receives. This brainiac neuroscientist always knew that she had wanted to be involved in science, so that sort of a schedule is a dream come true.

“When I was a small girl, I wanted to be an archeologist. And then an influential high school science teacher got me interested in marine biology. Finally, a mentor I met in college taught me about neuroscience, and I knew I had found my calling. So as far back as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I wanted to be a scientist,” she explains.

After years honing her skills and becoming an esteemed researcher, she and her husband moved to Utah to follow a great career opportunity for him.

“It was a bit unclear whether I would find an academic position here,” she recalls. “I was lucky, but had to start in what is known as a research track assistant professor position, which meant that I was not in a more secure tenure line. Eventually I was able to be switched to the tenure line and that has helped with my career tremendously.”

Now she works to hire new faculty members for her department, and makes sure those eligible candidates ensure its long-term success. Beyond the scope of academia alone, she is the Principle Investigator for the contract site of the Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program.

This is your brain on massive magnification.

“Just about all anti seizure drugs have been through our program,” Dr. Wilcox says, “so we are very proud of the fact that many of the medicines that are now available to patients with epilepsy have been through our program. When we test them for activity in our experiments, we are blinded to them so we can perform the experiments in an unbiased way. So I do not know which potential medicines we are currently working on!”

Fortunately, this contract for the program is NIH funded and has been at her university for over 40 years, though garnering funding for experiments is always a challenge. Nonetheless, Dr. Wilcox hopes that her experiments will continue to help those who suffer from epilepsy and that someday she and her team will either discover a cure or a way to prevent epilepsy in those patients at risk for developing it following a brain injury.

Dr. Wilcox in the WildernessBeyond the lab, Dr. Wilcox explores the beautiful foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, soaking up the replenishing energy of nature with her husband and their newly adopted terrier, Milo. She also binge watches British detective shows, reads historical fiction novels, and gets her passport stamped as often as possible. “I love to travel to other countries, which my job lets me do!” she says.

For her tireless work researching, and running a department whose experiments and steadfastness help countless people suffering from epilepsy, and for enriching the lives and minds of her students and co-faculty, we think Dr. Karen Wilcox is a Cool Girl!

You can connect with Dr. Wilcox on twitter at @kswilcox
Or see more specifics on her lab and work on her faculty page on the University of Utah.

100 Cool Girls

Since we initiated our Cool Girl movement in 2009 we’ve featured scientists, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, hopers, dreamers, and doers. We’ve had the pleasure to meet and get to know a lot of amazing women of all ages doing amazing things. And as of December 2017, we hit 100 Cool Girls!

But, who is a Cool Girl? A Cool Girl is someone who defends awesome: an everyday superhero! Someone who exudes positivity, and leads by example. Cool Girls make a difference in their communities and the world, challenge the norm, and aren’t afraid to be themselves.

We’d like to take this momentous occasion to highlight some individuals who have made a lasting impression. Each and every Cool Girl is inspiring, but if we included them all this post would be, well, 100 Cool Girls long. So, please use this as a teaser of truly extraordinary women and then take a look through the whole blog.

Know some inspirational women yourself? Nominate them to be a Cool Girl. They may get featured here, get some cool socks, and might also get some support for a project or charity of their choice.

If you just want to give a shout out to a really awesome woman in your life, you can also leave a comment.

Graphic Novelist and Cool Girl Lucy KnisleyLucy Knisley
Graphic novel artist & author
Featured 2016

Lucy has been drawing since she was a kid, publishing comics since she was 19, and published her first graphic novel when she was 21! A lot of her work is autobiographical including growing up with her chef mom (Relish), jet-setting around the world (Age of License), and her work in progress about becoming a parent (Kid Gloves). Read more.

“Other girls and women in cool professions are the best and greatest resource you can possibly imagine. Hold up your fellow lady, and your fellow lady will hold you up!” -Lucy Knisley, Cool Girl

Professional Fighter, Writer, Teacher and Cool Girl Roxanne ModafferiRoxanne Modafferi
Professional Fighter, Writer, Teacher
Featured 2014

Roxanne started practicing Tae Kwon Do in grade school after watching Power Rangers and trained hard to make it onto The Ultimate Fighter 18! She’s triumphed over injuries and ill-timed food poisoning to not only win fights, but teach and write (Memoirs of a Happy Warrior). Read more.

“I was greatly influence by TV superheros who always did the right thing no matter how troublesome, and saved people.” -Roxanne Modaferri, Cool Girl

Irene Gabashvili
Founder of Aurametrix, Inc
Featured 2012

Irene realized there was a serious need for people to be able to alleviate symptoms for certain chronic ailments and conditions on their own. She developed Aurametrix which is like a digital nurse that looks at all of the different details that can contribute to a person’s symptoms in order to figure out what parts of their life are making them feel better or worse. Read more.

“Believe in yourself, dream and aim high. Don’t be afraid to ask successful people for advice.” -Irene Gabashvili, Cool Girl

Vice President of Tri-North Buidlers, Inc and Cool Girl Anna SternAnna Stern
Vice President of Tri-North Buidlers, Inc
Featured 2012

Anna is Vice President of one of the largest construction companies in the country. Not only is she a powerful figure in a male-dominated industry, she helps host events like Kids Building Wisconsin, which bring attention and support for the construction workforce she oversees. She also supports events for Women Building Wisconsin, an organization that helps connect women within the construction industry and find newer members mentors. Read more.

“I would say the best advice would be to find a good mentor. I’ve been blessed to have great mentors throughout my career and have benefited from their guidance, experience, and willingness to stand up for me.” -Anna Stern, Cool Girl

Artist, Activist and Cool Girl Lindsay AmerLindsay Amer
Artist, Activist
Featured 2017

Lindsay created her YouTube channel Queer Kid Stuff to bridge the gap in theater and education for LGBTQ+ kids. Lindsay creates fun, easily accessible videos made for children featuring inclusive, queer storylines. She powers through online harassment to push for “a kinder and more equal future.” She does have a lot of supportive fans, though, growing every day! Read more.

“If you love it, do it and be it. Don’t listen to what other people want you to do, or think, or say, or be. Listen to yourself and your wants and needs and just do you. You’ll be so much happier for it.” -Lindsay Amer, Cool Girl

BMX Champion Payton and Cool Girl "P-Nut!" RidenourPayton “P-Nut!” Ridenour
Being a kid!
Featured 2012

Payton has been riding since she was 5 and started competing in BMX at a high level when she was 7 and even qualified for the World Championships. She’s traveled all over the United States racing and making a name for herself. She advises other girls interested in the sport: (Read more.)

“They should know that this is an aggressive sport. You need to dress for the crash and not for the ride. But most of all, you need to keep it fun.” -Payton Ridenour, Cool Girl

Co-Founder Petal and Cool Girl Julie WagneJulie Wagne
Co-Founder Petal
Featured 2016

Julie co-founded Petal, which fosters a partnership between artists, designers, and weavers in West Africa and San Francisco. She and her partner Ibrahima are committed to providing resources to tribal villages and communities, to exceeding fair wages, giving security to families, and protecting the cultural heritage of the Fulani people that inspires their textile creations. All this while helping provide education for children in West Africa. (Read more.)

“If you want to do something, do it. Believe in yourself and keep going!” -Julie Wagne, Cool Girl

Writer, Developer, Activist, Founder and Cool Girl Sharon LinSharon Lin
Writer, Developer, Activist, Founder
Featured in 2016

Sharon founded two non-profits to educate girls about technology, has written for publications including Huffington Post, and has started hackathons to spark creative development across communities and industries…all this before she graduated High School. Sharon wasn’t done inspiring other students to pursue computer science, so she also founded BitxBit Camp, which partners middle schoolers with older mentors and opportunities to develop projects. (Read more.)

“Never lose hope of the goals you have, and never let anyone else talk you out of them by saying you’re not good enough, or that you’re not meant for this. Seek out mentors if you can, or find older girls who you admire, and befriend them.” -Sharon Lin, Cool Girl

Biology Lecturer and Cool Girl Joan ManasterJoan Manaster
Biology Lecturer
Featured 2010

Ever wanted to see Gummi Bears get liquefied by sound waves? This Cool Girl has you covered. Joan works as a lecturer for students studying for their Masters of Science in Teaching Biology, but she wants to reach as many people as possible when it comes to the wonders of science. She thinks it’s especially important that women and girls see science as exciting and are able to see more women in STEM roles. She’s fueling this push with her website and Twitter. (Read more.)

“I find myself with a strong desire to have more women in science be seen and heard, as I think this could really influence young ladies. I hope to accomplish this by creating something of an Internet ‘science channel’ featuring video segments that highlight women in science, and to challenge more of them to be visible in this realm.” -Joan Manaster, Cool Girl

Polished Girlz Founder and Cool Girl Alanna WallAlanna Wall
Polished Girlz Founder
Featured 2015

Alanna founded Polished Girlz to bring nail parties to those who couldn’t treat themselves to a nail salon. This non-profit visits those hospitalized due to illness or those with special needs who might not be able to paint their own nails and does it for them! While bringing them a little color and company, it also teaches the importance of frequent hand-washing to reduce infection transmission and the potential for resulting hospital visits. (Read more.)

“For girls facing any challenges, I would like to tell them that they are strong and brave and that I am honored to be able to make you smile even if it is just a little while.” -Alanna Wall, Cool Girl

Stephanie Smith

Name: Stephanie Smith
Age: 26
Location: Seattle, Washington
Occupation: Ph.D. Candidate and teaching assistant, Department of Biology at the University of Washington, Seattle

Ph.D. candidate and illustrator Stephanie Smith was a natural born biologist. She spent her childhood rifling around the dirt for treasures like “tiny frogs, raccoons, mushrooms, cicada shells, worms, and wild strawberries.”

Those fledgling years in Newark, Ohio sparked her passion, which she now channels in her teaching assistantship and studies at the Department of Biology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“When I went to college I was originally interested in paleoanthropology, but I took a mammal evolution class my second semester and that was what really got me interested in fossil mammals in general,” Stephanie explains. “I asked the professor if I could work in his lab and he took me on to wash and organize mammal fossils, and to sort through fossiliferous sediment (read: dirt with tiiiiiny fossils in it) under a microscope. That volunteer position was the thing that really started to get me excited about studying mammals.”

The summer following her sophomore year of college offered her an opportunity to do field work in the Bighorn Basin in Wyoming with Ken Rose and his field crew.

“On our first day out collecting fossils, I remember I found a jaw of a tiny horse (Hyracotherium) with three teeth in it, and I think I decided that day that I wanted to do this forever,” she says.

These days, much of Stephanie’s time is dedicated to completing her Ph.D. dissertation and illustrating things she finds interesting in nature.

“I’m working with a bunch of collaborators right now on a manuscript of one of my dissertation chapters, where we’re looking at changes in the type and relative abundance of different kinds of mammals on the landscape right after the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction, which is the one that wiped out all dinosaurs except birds,” she says.

In the classroom, Stephanie is assisting a class on the evolution of mammals, and much of her lesson planning includes illustrating what’s taught.

“I get to draw these big mural-type figures on the board for my students when I teach about them. I find that using simplified line drawings and flow-charts can help my students grasp complicated concepts, especially people who are very visual learners,” she explains.

Beyond the classroom, Stephanie has designed the t-shirt for the Discoveries in Geoscience (DIG) Field School, once again using her artistic talent combined with her love of paleontology.

The DIG is a free professional development opportunity where K-12 STEM teachers come join our research team in the field for four days of research experience and hijinks. I’ve been a field instructor for the DIG for five years and it’s one of my favorite things to be involved in because of how excited the teachers get about paleontology!”

In the future, Stephanie hopes to get a job working in a natural history museum where she could ideally do her research, write grants, and use her illustration skills to inform and inspire the public about science.

“Science communication is really important to me, and illustration lets me inject more creativity and personality into the process,” she says.

And beyond that personality powering her paleontological prowess, what message does Stephanie hope to communicate to young women stoked by science?

“Don’t be afraid to go out and learn new things for yourself! You can learn about a million things just by observing what’s going on in the world around you, and asking questions and investigating. Learning is not just a thing that happens in a classroom.”

Very cool advice from a very cool girl! Thanks, Stephanie, and best of luck with your dissertation!

Some internet offerings if you’re looking to check out Stephanie in action on Instagram, Twitter, or her website.

 

Allyson Lister

Name: Allyson Lister
Age: 35
Location: Newcastle, UK
Occupation: PhD Student and Researcher in Bioinformatics

Allyson Lister grew up fascinated by space. But unlike most kids who dream of becoming an astronaut, Allyson was more specific, hoping to one day become a doctor in the cosmos. Perhaps her natural inclination to lean towards something that united both science and technology was a sign of what was to come. “Once I was old enough to understand what biology was, I realized that’s where my interests were,” she says.

Growing up in Monterey Bay, California, Allyson grew up playing on a Commodore 64, a Nintendo Entertainment System, and an old IBM computer. Her mother instructed her on the art of typing, and her father taught her how to write simple programs, including how to print out her name over and over again under DOS. Her parents’ encouragement stoked her love of technology, and these early computer systems lay the groundwork for her future interests.

Allyson’s love of biology also started young, after she received a Christmas gift of a microscope. “Mr. Clark, my biology teacher in high school, was one of the greatest inspirations to me, and solidified my interest in the science,” Allyson reveals. “It wasn’t until graduate school, and my Masters in Bioinformatics, that I realized I could combine my love of biology with the capabilities of a computer.” 

Today, Allyson’s job is to cultivate useful, precise communication when it comes to biological data. If data can’t be cohesively described and shared, it’s ineffective. So Allyson uses something called ontologies to help researchers to be able to work together and speak a common language when it comes to that data. These ontologies also help computers process and analyze the same information. She also uses the Internet and social networks online in order to share the latest research and news with the scientific community as a whole.

For Allyson’s work, communication is key, and ontologies are like the key-ring. “To ensure everyone is talking about the same thing, you build ontologies and share them, creating a common basis of understanding,” she explains. “You can build an ontology of whatever topic you want: cars, movies, biological pathways. They’re what dictionaries or thesauri dream of being: ontologies define words by relating them to other words, and by placing constraints on those relationships. They’re used to precisely describe data with the aim of preventing misunderstandings, either by humans or computers.”

Outside of work, Allyson is an avid swimmer who also knits and enjoys geocaching, hiking, and computer games. She has also worked with a variety of educational programs, including some that have given her the opportunity to explain bioinformatics and genetics to elementary school students.

With such a large amount of data in the world, and thousands of researchers adding to that huge pool of information every day, Allyson’s expertise is in high demand. She spends much of her time in front of her computer, creating experiments and analyzing data that will further enhance new concepts in biology. “Facilitating the communication of scientific data is key to the advancement of science, and it is a integral part of doing science that every researcher should think about,” Allyson says.

For proving that ladies can kick butt on a computer while being in the scientific sphere, we think Allyson Lister is a very Cool Girl!

Check out more of Allyson’s endeavors on her blog – The Mind Wobbles – or on Twitter @allysonlister

If you’re interested in learning more about ontologies, check out the article “What is an Ontology?” More information on open access and open data for science can be found at http://creativecommons.org/science and http://cameronneylon.net/

Joanne Manaster


Name:
Joanne Manaster
Age: 45
Location: Champaign, IL
Occupation: University Biology Lecturer for students studying for their Masters of Science in Teaching Biology

As a shy, introverted child, Joanne Manaster wanted to become an astronomer and, later, a doctor, but before she was old enough to drive she was working as a model. “I think it would have taken me longer to overcome my shyness if I weren’t discovered for modeling when I was fourteen,” she says. “And my sense of style was definitely lacking before that point, too!” Now she is one of the more prominent Internet personalities when it comes to science, with her own website, Joanne Loves Science, that’s home to book reviews, fun field tests, and something that’s been dubbed “Gummi Bear Science.”

“Basically, a college student once asked me if a Gummi Bear could be liquefied with ultrasonic sound waves. We gave it a try and it worked. Once I began making videos, I ran across the Gummi Bear in potassium chlorate video and decided to create one about sonication. Multiple ideas have emerged since then. I thought people might like to learn a little bit more about how scientists do various things in their lab and also that scientific properties explain everything around us. Gummi Bears are no different,” she explains. She’s currently working on another web video featuring the sweets, where she’s using Gummi Bears to investigate the density of objects.

Continue reading Joanne Manaster