Unique Scientist: Peggy Muddles

Meet Unique Scientist Peggy Muddles (She/her)! Peggy works at The Centre for the Analysis of Genome Evolution and Function (CAGEF) at the University of Toronto @CAGEF_UofT, and Guttman Lab @dguttman in Canada.

What kind of scientist are you?
By day I’m a lab tech at a genome centre that focuses on microbiome research. In the attached academic lab we study host-pathogen interactions, mostly in plants (but also in Cystic Fibrosis). My time is split between the two labs, so I get to do a wide variety of stuff.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I spent my childhood in the woods, playing with dirt and bugs. I’m still not quite sure how I didn’t wind up as an entomologist. In undergrad I volunteered with a grad student working on a yeast screen, hunting for conserved molecular targets of bacterial proteins that were thought to play a role in virulence, and I got hooked on bench science. 

“After (barely) graduating, I took a short break of 16 or so years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I dabbled in construction, graphic design, bicycle mechanics, and a variety of other jobs, then finally decided to go back to school at the tender age of 31.”

Peggy Muddles

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I was a classic underachiever in high school. After (barely) graduating, I took a short break of 16 or so years to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I dabbled in construction, graphic design, bicycle mechanics, and a variety of other jobs, then finally decided to go back to school at the tender age of 31. Being surrounded by 18 year old students in this shared torture chamber of undergraduate stress was weird, uncomfortable, inspiring, challenging, and ultimately very rewarding. I knew by the time I graduated that I had no interest in the grad school grind, but I was completely in love with the academic environment, so I decided to commit to the Lab Tech Life (TM). 

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
In my other life, I’m a science artist. I make ceramic and digital art that explores microbial life, entomology, space, and whatever else seems cool on any given day. I spend as much time as possible outside hunting for cool insects and arachnids. I also have two ridiculous cats with their own twitter account (@catsmuddlers), and three beautiful amblypygi–a bizarre kind of arachnid that is completely harmless and has an otherworldly grace. 

“In my other life, I’m a science artist. I make ceramic and digital art that explores microbial life, entomology, space, and whatever else seems cool on any given day.”

Peggy Muddles

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Just one? Dang. I’d love to see a top-down re-imagining of academia, to be honest. I know too many brilliant scientists who spend most of their time doing everything *but* science, and too many graduate students left without the kind of support they need to succeed in and out of the lab. 

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My advisor in my undergraduate research, Amy Lee (@minisciencegirl), was a huge influence. She was incredibly patient and a wonderful teacher. She demanded excellence from both me and everyone she worked with, and really set me up for success. My friend, Michele Banks (@artologica), mentored me in my first forays into science art, and continues to be a valued confidante, sounding board, cheerleader, and friend. 

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I just designed a new batch of cool Drosophila jewelry for a fly research conference, and they turned out awesome 😀

#WomenInSTEM  #SciArt #SciFashion 

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