Unique Scientist: Dr. Kristen Breit

Time to meet Dr. Kristen Breit (She/her)! Dr. Breit is a behavioral neuroscientist at San Diego State University in the USA.

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a behavioral neuroscientist who studies the effects of prenatal drug exposure on brain and behavioral development. My particular area of interest is in prenatal cannabis exposure and prenatal e-cigarette exposure. I also teach Psychology courses related to drugs, neuroscience, development, and evolution!

What made you want to become a scientist?
I actually did not grow up loving science, and I wasn’t very good at it either (I got a “1” on my AP [Advanced Placement] Chemistry exam); I was a competitive dancer and singer, and always dreamed of going professional in that area! I went to Chapman University for college, and we had to pick a different major prior to auditioning for the dance major program. I picked Psychology on a whim, and I never looked back (or auditioned for the dance team!). I became fascinated with developmental psychology and the neuroscience behind how drugs work, and I have been lucky enough to make a career in that area. I guess you could say I “fell into it”! But with all the changing drugs available today, as well as changing policies, I’ll just keep falling into more and more questions.

“I also think I surprise people with my teaching style and student interaction personality, as it embodies my experience working in the entertainment department at Disneyland.”

Kristen Breit

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’m a young woman with a short blonde/silver pixie cut and a nose ring, so when people first hear what I do for a living or see me in a classroom, a confused reaction usually follows. I also think I surprise people with my teaching style and student interaction personality, as it embodies my experience working in the entertainment department at Disneyland. All the world can be a stage, even the science world!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
One of my absolute favorite hobbies is painting! I paint science-related art, but most of my art is custom orders or gifts for friends and family. My husband and I also love to go to theme parks, quirky restaurants, and local wineries and breweries. To blow off steam, I like to kickbox, and I still like to take tap dancing workshops when I can! Lastly, I really enjoy teaching science courses to individuals in retirement homes…it’s never too late to learn to love science!

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish we could introduce neuroscience as a fun field earlier in kids’ lives! Even the college students I teach attend the first lectures of neuroscience-related courses with fear in their eyes, because all their lives’ it’s introduced as a scary, complicated field. Sure there’s a lot of big, weird words, but neurons can be fun!

“One of my absolute favorite hobbies is painting! […] Lastly, I really enjoy teaching science courses to individuals in retirement homes…it’s never too late to learn to love science!”

Kristen Breit

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
The earliest inspiration I had academically was my professor and principal investigator Dr. Ruby Christian-Brougham. Ruby accepted me into her research lab with no experience, and this is where my love for drug-related research really started. She also pushed me to always do better; I once asked her if my “B+” could be bumped to an “A” because of my efforts in the class, and she told me that if I wanted to earn a better grade, I should push myself to work harder in the future. I never forgot this, and it still motivates me today! She also inspired me by standing up and speaking out about the sexism in academia, which encouraged me to be a loud, proud woman in Psychology.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This week I was able to take some unexpected data and turn it into a critical thinking exercise rather than panicking! The “story” ended up being much cooler than originally expected, and I decided to last-minute submit a conference abstract about the data. It’s way more fun to lean into things than to panic.


#WomenInSTEM

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