Time to meet Chris Spear (They/them)! Chris is a Masters’ student studying the physiology, biomechanics, and behaviour of sharks, skates, rays at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington the USA!
What kind of scientist are you?
I research elasmobranch (sharks, skates, rays) physiology, animal behaviour, and biomechanics. I do behind the scenes work with groups to try to reach new audiences with animal and ecology education. As an introvert, I prefer to keep my name quiet, but I really do love outreach and helping to dispel negative perceptions of certain animals, like sharks!
What made you want to become a scientist?
I have always been fascinated by animals, specifically sharks and rays. In addition, I’ve had many health issues (starting around 16 years old) so learning about physiology, medicine, and how the body works became a fascination as I tried to understand myself. Combining elasmobranchs and physiology was far too tempting. It allowed me to not hyper focus on my own health issues while still diving down the rabbit hole of physiology, animal behaviour, and neuroscience!
“I learned fire breathing and tricks back in 2014 and have performed a few times. I also teach dance and DJ!”Chris Spear
What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I identify as LGBTQ. I am an agender nonbinary person. I also struggle with ongoing health issues, though not without their perks! Both of my ankles are now more artificial than real and one even had cadaver tendons drilled in (which is quite fun to share)! Due to surgeries, I am an older Master’s student, and I’m crazy excited! I have tattoos, piercings, and bright red hair.
What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I always stay a student and try to be as active as my body allows. I learned fire breathing and tricks back in 2014 and have performed a few times. I also teach dance (fusion is my favorite) and DJ! I love learning how to make any new food! I also try to spend as much time as possible in/on the water, it’s definitely my happy place!
If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
This is a tough question! Probably creating healthier and safer working spaces.
Image credit: Chris Spear
“My comparative anatomy and physiology professor let me know that mixing my passions of neuroscience, animal behaviour, physiology, and biomechanics wasn’t strange.”Chris Spear
Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
Previous scientists like Eugenie Clark and Alan Turing who, in some way, resembled me. They pioneered new roads and made discoveries that inspired me through childhood and still today! I don’t have scientists in my family, and my brother and I were the first ones to go into STEM fields. My first real professional encouragement didn’t come until senior year of undergrad. My comparative anatomy and physiology professor let me know that mixing my passions of neuroscience, animal behaviour, physiology, and biomechanics wasn’t strange. He supported and encouraged me to pursue this avenue of research!
Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
About 2 weeks ago I was accepted into my Master’s program. I have been looking forward to returning and continuing my education that pretty much nothing can top this for the next year. I did make a great homemade pizza though :).