Unique Scientist: Vic

Meet Unique Scientist Vic (They/Them)! Vic is a molecular biologist from the USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a biologist who primarily focuses on DNA repair. When our DNA is mutated, either through external factors (like UV damage) or mishaps during normal replication, it can lead to diseases such as cancer. DNA repair involves a number of different pathways to fix these mutations, but how they work isn’t fully understood, which is where my field comes in!

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was a curious kid with a love of nature, wondering how life around me came to be and sustained itself. While I originally set my young sights on being an entomologist or a herpetologist, once I first learned about genetics and DNA processes I was hooked. I was astounded by how genes directed so many everyday biological functions and particularly how errors in these processes could cause disease. Combining this profound interest with my desire to help others made me want to become a biologist to potentially find cures or better treatments for diseases. 

“I’m a biologist who primarily focuses on DNA repair. […] Not only am I a lesbian, but I’m non-binary and the only transgender student at my grad school! […] As my school is a hospital, my existence there defies preconceived ideas of sex and gender that many health professionals and clinical scientists on campus rely on daily.”

Vic

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
Not only am I a lesbian, but I’m non-binary and the only transgender student at my grad school! Because of this I bring a unique perspective to classes and the lab, particularly in terms of addressing binary gendered terms and beliefs common in science. As my school is a hospital, my existence there defies preconceived ideas of sex and gender that many health professionals and clinical scientists on campus rely on daily. I’ve also been fighting anxiety my whole life which pushes me to try to prioritize my mental health and advocate for mental health awareness and services in academia. 

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I love working out. I frequently weight lift and am getting back into biking post-surgery. I also play with my adorable service cat, mostly fetch! I’ve been known to paint and scrapbook too, but my favorite post-work activity is spending time with my wonderful partner, particularly watching movies together or singing while they play ukulele. 

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Broadly, it would be to change the way we treat others in science which currently comes from, and is perpetuated by, the white, cis, straight, male belief in their dominance over science. This behavior excludes women, underrepresented minorities, and LGBTQ+ folks through harassment and improper recognition of their achievements and abilities. It also promotes the toxic overworking culture pushed onto students and postdocs alike so that we’re blamed if we’re struggling, prompting comments like we’re “not cut out” for science. Changing the culture of science to make it more welcoming to all would lead to better research from more varied perspectives and happier scientists overall!

“I was astounded by how genes directed so many everyday biological functions and particularly how errors in these processes could cause disease. Combining this profound interest with my desire to help others made me want to become a biologist to potentially find cures or better treatments for diseases.”

Vic

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
While my parents instilled my love of science, it was a PI (Principal Investigator, ‘lab head’) at my undergrad institution who saw my potential and invited me to join her lab in high school, cementing my desire to go to grad school and perform research. She was one of the few women PIs I knew of, and even now when I mention her people comment on her great achievements and advancements in the field. Working in her lab with her constant encouragement made me feel like I had a place in science and was wanted there. I strive to contribute as much to the DNA repair field as she has. 

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I’m proud of allowing myself to turn in an assignment I didn’t think was perfect! With both anxiety and imposter syndrome I feel like my work is never good enough, and often am pushed to my mental breaking point to turn in a paper that’s 100% perfect. But this week I was dealing with a lot already and realized even a dismal grade wouldn’t affect my average, so I completed the assignment adequately (not perfectly) and spent the rest of the night on self-care. 

#QueerInSTEM #NonbinaryInSTEM #TransInSTEM

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