Unique Scientist: Dr. Tina M. Cairns

Say hello to Dr. Tina Cairns (She/her)! Dr. Cairns is a virologist from the USA who studies how herpesviruses are able to enter the cells they infect at the University of Pennsylvania!

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a virologist, I study herpesviruses, specifically virus entry and virus-cell fusion. Our lab focuses on the four glycoproteins present in the virus that are required for entry into cells: gD, gB, and gH/gL. gH/gL is my “baby.”

What made you want to become a scientist?
I fell in love with science in high school, especially the biology courses. I actually enjoyed writing up lab reports.

“I used to play ice hockey 1-2 times a week, before I had my daughter. When she gets a little older, I hope to find my way back on the ice.”

Dr. Tina Cairns

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I do not dress or act like a “typical” scientist. I wear hockey jerseys to work almost every day. I love sports, especially the pro teams in Philly (Flyers/ Eagles/ Phillies). I have many geeky interests, including comic books, sci-fi shows/movies, and anime. I put stickers in my lab notebooks. 🙂

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I used to play ice hockey 1-2x a week, before I had my daughter. When she gets a little older, I hope to find my way back on the ice (it’s hard to find a babysitter weeknights at 10 pm, when our games usually start!).

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Spend more time doing experiments and less time begging for the money to do them.

“I will never forget winning the $20 prize for getting an A in every marking period, the midterm, and the final exam.”

Dr. Tina Cairns

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My high school biology teacher Mr. Bates jump-started my love for science. I will never forget winning the $20 prize for getting an A in every marking period, the midterm, and the final exam. I also had a wonderful mentor in college, Dr. Vaughan, who helped me get into graduate school.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
After months of writing manuscripts and book chapters, I got back to the bench and churned out an awesome looking Western blot. (Apparently Western blots are like riding a bike, you never forget how, haha)


#WomenInSTEM

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