Unique Scientist: Gregory Youdan

Say Hello to Unique Scientist Gregory Youdan (He/Him)! Gregory is part of the Teachers College, Columbia University (@TeachersCollege) in the USA.

What kind of scientist are you?
Movement Scientist and Data Scientist. I use data science techniques to analyze data from wearable sensors to study walking and balance in people with neurodegenerative conditions.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was infinitely curious about how the human body moves, especially the relationship between how a person moves and how the brain controls this. When I worked as a professional modern dancer and a Pilates teacher, I was dedicated to helping my clients move better to manage their pain and injury rehabilitation. My questions were not being answered to the level of detail I was craving, however, so I decided then to go into science to be able to answer these questions for myself.

“I was also in the circus at one point in time and if you google hard enough, you may find some music videos I danced in.”

Gregory A. Youdan (GAY) #BestInitialsEver

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Besides coming from a non-traditional STEM background (my bachelor’s was in Dance), I am a first-generation PhD Student. My mother was born in the Dominican Republic and has worked as a housekeeper all my life. My father was born in a small town in Montana and spent most of his life working for Kodak. On top of this, I’m a gay scientist whose initials spell GAY. Thank you Mami and Dad! I have been with my partner for 12 years living in NYC with our 3 cats. Yes, I’m a crazy cat lady – deal with it! Science became a passion for me later in life, but it blossomed out of my love for dance and human movement. Many people don’t realize that movement science is a field of study and that we need research in exercise and rehabilitation just as much as anything else. How many other movement scientists do you know who can make a killer flan and do a pirouette?

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I was a dancer in a physically-integrated dance company working with both abled-bodied and disabled dancers. I’m now on the board of directors of Heidi Latsky (@HeidiLatskydnce), which is a company dedicated to diversity. If that isn’t cool enough for you, I’m part of a kick-ass group of scientists @Know_Science, helping to put on #scicomm events all around NYC. I also advocate for awareness of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. You may have seen me traveling with a felt dog called Sybil, who helps bring awareness to Huntington’s disease on social media. P.S. I was also in the circus at one point in time and if you google hard enough, you may find some music videos I danced in.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would have said changing the perception and preconceived notions of what a scientist looks like and who can be a scientist, but #UniqueScientists is crushing it on that front. As a data scientist, I’ll go with that the only significant findings are p>0.05.

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
There are so many people who have inspired me along the way and influenced my life. I had a rough time coming out to my family, and Lance Westergard and David Powell at Hofstra University took me under wings. In the dance world, Jim May who was the director of the Sokolow Theatre Ensemble at the time, challenged me and taught me to be an artist. All of these gay men built me up and taught me to be a better person. Heidi Latsky completely challenged my views on diversity and challenged my body physically to grow into a technically strong dancer. In science, my advisor Dr. Lori Quinn has mentored me, challenged me, and allowed me to make mistakes. Under her guidance I have grown immensely as a scientist. I would not be where I am today without all of these mentors. I guess I’m pretty lucky they all thought I was worth taking a chance on at one point or another.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I travelled to a new country – Wales! …And revised my manuscript to resubmit. There’s always that.

#LatinxInSTEM, #LGBTQinSTEM

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