Unique Scientist: Dr. Michelle Rodrigues

Time to meet Dr. Michelle Rodrigues (She/her)! Dr. Rodrigues is a biological anthropologist who studies friendship, social networks, and stress in primates at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology in the USA!

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a biological anthropologist who studies friendship, social networks, and stress in primates. My research spans research on friendship in wild monkeys, to social networks in captive apes, to stress and workplace stressors in female scientists.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was always obsessed with animals as a child, and enjoyed learning about the natural world, so studying animal behavior was something I found fun. I became interested in primates through reading Jane Goodall books, watching primates in the zoo, and doing a field course in undergrad where I fell in love with observing howler monkeys.

“I was always obsessed with animals as a child, and enjoyed learning about the natural world, so studying animal behavior was something I found fun.”

Dr. Michelle Rodrigues

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I’m a woman of color in a field that is predominantly white. I’m Indian, but people often mistaken me for being Latina because of my Portuguese last name–which often forces me to give impromptu history lessons on 16th century colonialism. I also have tattoos and purple hair, which deviate a bit from the impression of what a scientist “should” look like!

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
My current hobby is getting back to another childhood animal obsession–horses! I currently take lessons twice a week, and help out my instructor with her semi-private lessons and occasional girl scout groups.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I wish science was better at being genuinely inclusive, and actively selected for people that bring fresh perspectives and new ways of doing things. I think the process of enculturation in science focuses too much on trying to fit people into just a few narrow scholarly molds.

I’m a woman of color in a field that is predominantly white. I’m Indian, but people often mistaken me for being Latina because of my Portuguese last name–which often forces me to give impromptu history lessons on 16th century colonialism.

Dr. Michelle Rodrigues

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
There are so many people that inspire me, but some of my early inspiration came from my master’s advisor Dr. Jill Pruetz, whose animal obsession is similar to my own! I’m also inspired by many of the women of color that have been trailblazers in their fields, such as Dr. Mae Jemison.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This week, I gathered up my courage to send a few pitches to write freelance articles. Pitching is scary, and 2/3 were immediately rejected, but at least I’m trying!


#WomenInSTEM, #BrownInSTEM, #WoCInSTEM

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