Unique Scientist: Christine Liu

Meet Unique Scientist Christine Liu (She/Her)! Christine is a grad student in the USA at UC Berkeley. She is known for making art and science come together and you can follow her work in many, many places!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a systems neuroscientist interested in how recreational drugs affect the brain. Currently, I study the brain circuits that are involved in the rewarding and aversive feelings that nicotine can cause.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I have always been curious about the secret workings of the world. Whenever I’d learn something about chemistry, physics, or biology that helped explain the things I’d experience day to day, I felt a lot of comfort in understanding how things worked! It’s this feeling that keeps me interested and curious about science!

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
While I might look and act like a lot of other students pursuing a PhD, I do have some unique qualities that I’m proud of! I grew up low-income which made me really resourceful and ambitious, which I consider to be some of my greatest strengths — both in my research and my outside endeavors. Whenever I don’t see an opportunity or a space for me, I go ahead and create it. This led to my founding both Two Photon Art and The STEM Squad (@theSTEMsquad) as places where I could nurture my full, artistic, and advocate self! It’s not everyday you meet a neuroscientist who is also an artist and a businesswoman. I’m proud to be all three!

“Whenever I don’t see an opportunity or a space for me, I go ahead and create it.”

Christine Liu

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I love the art and science that is involved in cooking and when I’m in the right mindset, I go through intense bouts of kitchen experimentation. I’ve made my own sourdough, kimchi, dumplings, noodles, and more! I’m also vegan so I love to get creative and veganize delicious dishes. I’ve even made my own vegan cheeses and vegan pepperonis to go with my sourdough pizza!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I’d change the entire incentive structure of publishing. I think negative results should be published to prevent a dozen labs doing the same experiment that’s destined to fail. The need to keep results secret until a tidy, impressive story is ready for publication prevents a lot of valuable information from being shared. I think the current incentive structure also can encourage scientific misconduct and abusive working conditions. We should be valuing more than just publications when we evaluate scientists, too!

“The entire online scientific community has been a huge source of inspiration for me […]”

Christine Liu

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
The entire online scientific community has been a huge source of inspiration for me, but if I had to choose one person, I’d have to say Samantha Yammine (AKA Science Sam, @SamanthaZY). I met her early on in grad school when I was still pretty insecure about my belonging in science in many ways (gender, race, family background, my hobbies, and more). Not only was she one of the very first supporters of Two Photon Art before we even met, she gave me some really necessary pep talks that encouraged me to be myself without inhibition. I try my best to channel that energy and encouragement to others because I know firsthand how impactful it can be! She continues to model how to be authentically yourself while supporting people online while learning from people and being held accountable!

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I’ve been super excited and working really hard on elevating The STEM Squad into a platform where we can tangibly support people beyond just social media exposure. I’ve got big plans to pay people doing super important work for inclusion in STEM both online and offline. I’ve been designing a new website, new products, and doing photoshoots all week and I’ve been so excited that I’ve been having trouble sleeping!

#WomenInSTEM

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