Unique Scientist: James McGee

Let’s welcome James McGee (He/him)! James is a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University in the USA and his background is in cell biology of parasites!

What kind of scientist are you?
My research background has been on the cell biology of Plasmodium falciparum (the parasite that causes malaria), specifically on cell division and segmentation. I recently joined the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences (MCIBS) graduate program at the Pennsylvania State University where I hope to focus on infectious diseases and immunology and will have plenty of opportunities to stay in malaria research!

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was originally attracted to the subject of biology by not only an interest in the material, but also the strong passion, devotion, and care my professors had for the subject and their own research. I found this passion contagious, developing it myself as I began research investigations of my own in laboratory coursework and eventually in doing independent research in my undergraduate lab.

“I wish that science had been more inclusive and seemed less daunting growing up.”

James McGee

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I consider myself a unique scientist for 3 reasons. Identifying as gay, I had previously struggled with being honest about myself to others in the scientific community, often feeling underrepresented. I am also a first generation college student, which while has never made me feel underrepresented, has led me to feel more lost in the world of higher education than those with familial experience. Lastly, I have been sober from alcohol for a little over 2 years now. While this is not necessarily underrepresented or a minority, it is definitely not a common trait found in “typical” scientists who will often be found having scientific conversations over a couple of drinks.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
For the past couple of years I have really found a second passion towards fitness. I spend a vast majority of my free time after work either at the gym lifting weights, outside going for a jog around the city of Boston, or helping my friends learn new exercises and get into fitness. While in grad school, I hope to also become a personal trainer to be able to follow this second passion of mine on the side while I grow as a scientist.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Although I am aware this is changing, I wish that science had been more inclusive and seemed less daunting growing up. I did not have many programs available to me growing up that highlighted science and research, and as a child the field of biology and science in general seemed very daunting and only for those “exceptionally bright.” I would like to change how this stereotype is viewed by the younger generation, showing that science is about so much more than just having “the brains” for it, and be inclusive and inviting for all.

“While in grad school, I hope to also become a personal trainer to be able to follow this second passion of mine on the side while I grow as a scientist.”

James McGee

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
During my undergraduate education at Union College, my biggest inspiration came from my thesis advisor Professor Barbara Danowski who spoke, taught, and mentored about biology with such passion it was impossible to not get drawn into the subject. I was also very inspired by two other professors, Scott Kirkton and Nicole Theodosiou, who taught me many invaluable science, research, and life lessons. Upon graduating, I continued my scientific career as a Research Assistant in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Dvorin, who continues to inspire me everyday with his passion and excitement for research, desires to advance the field of Malaria research and medicine, and ability to mentor members of his lab of all different education/career levels. Finally, my biggest inspiration for desiring to continue my education and pursue science comes from Dr. Sabrina Absalon. As the post-doctoral fellow I trained and worked with during my time in the Dvorin lab, she has inspired me with her passion for science, desire to mentor, and her own education story and career goals.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This week I have two accomplishments I am proud of, one scientific and one not. My scientific accomplishment this week was getting a new assay in the lab working for protein proximity labeling using biotin. My second accomplishment, the one that really made my week, was being able to do push-ups with claps in between each rep! That has been a long term goal of mine and it was a mark that my workouts have been improving.


#QueerInSTEM, #FirstGen

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