Unique Scientist: Kristine S. Cay (‘Cayk’)

Hello #CaykNation! It is time to learn more about Kristine S. Cay, better known as ‘Cayk’ (They/them/theirs)! Cayk is a chemist working towards their Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego and also the host of the Chemistry Cayk Online Podcast!

What kind of scientist are you?
I studied pharmacological chemistry as an undergraduate (drug synthesis and design), but my undergraduate research focused on the synthesis of cobalt-based single molecule magnets. I currently synthesise metal-loaded polydopamine nanoparticles and study their local structure through magnetic analysis! (It’s pretty dope).

What made you want to become a scientist?
When I was a young tot, I caught sight of the episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats where he was discussing capsaicin (the molecule that makes food spicy), and while I didn’t really understand the chemistry behind it, I fell in love with the molecular models he used and pursued science ever since.

“It is often challenging to be freely and fully myself because many aspects of who I am seem at odds with each other, since certain facets of my identity are more accepted than others.”

Kristine Cay (‘Cayk’)

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am a queer nonbinary scientist of colour who also happens to be a person of faith. It is often challenging to be freely and fully myself because many aspects of who I am seem at odds with each other, since certain facets of my identity are more accepted than others. It has definitely been a challenge to navigate what this means for me, and integrating all the pieces of my identity has been an incredible learning process, which I think has allowed me to grow as a scientist.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I LOVE longboard dancing, hiking, climbing, and writing music! I am also the host of the Chemistry Cayk Online Podcast, which is pretty sweet.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
If I had one wish to change anything in science, it would be for those in the science community to be celebrated for the science that they do, regardless of the attributes that make them unique.

“These three women have impacted my life so significantly, and I hope to be able to pay that forward and encourage other people to pursue their passions relentlessly.”

Kristine Cay (‘Cayk’)

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
There have been several people who have made a significantly positive impact on the journey to where I am today. For brevity’s sake I will mention 3: my mother is my ultimate supporter. She has always been very in tune with my interests and has unfailingly found ways to nurture them in such a way that these interests became passions that I would relentlessly pursue. My high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Sharon Veenhof, saw that passion and fanned the tiny flame that was my love for chemistry. She was very enthusiastic and happily welcomed the absurd amount of questions I asked in class, which really encouraged me to continue pursuing chemistry. And finally, Dr. Stacey Brydges has certainly been one of my favourite professors at the university. She was my general chemistry laboratory instructor, and her lecture for this course was the fifth class I had during my Friday afternoons, and if I am completely honest, by that hour, and was extremely reluctant to attend her lecture. Of course, I somehow managed to convince myself to drag myself to this 3pm lecture after having been in class since 9am with very few breaks in between. I have never regretted that decision. Dr. Brydges’s enthusiasm and ardent love for chemistry during that class was a truly refreshing experience. She explained things in such a way that wasn’t simplistic: simple enough for me to understand, but complex enough that I would be able to expand my vocabulary such that I could articulate this material in a scientific manner. Her cadence and voice dynamics were so engaging that I forgot that the class was only 50 minutes and was genuinely disappointed that class was over. Her investment in my education is the major reason I decided to continue pursuing my bachelor’s degree and why I am currently pursuing a post-baccalaureate degree, focusing on the teaching opportunities available to me. These three women have impacted my life so significantly, and I hope to be able to pay that forward and encourage other people to pursue their passions relentlessly.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
Today (11 August 2019) will be the first time I have ever travelled via the air on my own. This is an exciting time!

[Editor’s Note: Cayk’s submission was received in a few months ago, but this answer is too cute to update!]


NonBinaryInSTEM, #QueerInSTEM, #BrownInSTEM #EdifyYourVillage #CaykNation

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