Unique Scientist: Constanza Silva

Time to meet Constanza Silva (She/her)! Constanza is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Biobehavioral Health at The Pennsylvania State University interested in the behavioral genomics of tobacco and alcohol use. She is originally from Chile! ¡Bienvenida a nuestra familia!

What kind of scientist are you?
I am a 5th-year international grad student, #LatinaInSTEM, immigrant, and #firstgen in grad school. My research focus has taken different approaches to the topic of nicotine use/intake, how it impacts the genomic signatures, and the use of other substances like ethanol and marijuana in adolescence using mice models, but now focusing on humans.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I still struggle with considering myself a scientist. When I was an undergrad in Chile, I never thought about becoming a scientist because I didn’t know that research was a possible career. I went directly from undergrad to a Ph.D. because it was an additional step to get a better job in my home country. Finding the reasons to become a scientist has been a very recent process for me. However, one of my goals is to help young people in my home country by communicating what scientists do and what are the opportunities (funding/fellowships) to follow this career path.

“When I was an undergrad in Chile, I never thought about becoming a scientist because I didn’t know that research was a possible career.”

Constanza Silva

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I am a #UniqueScientist because I am an immigrant woman of color whose primary language is not English, yet I am studying in the USA. Also, I am one of only two international students in my department and the only #Latina.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I am a yoga teacher and I have taught free yoga classes in Spanish to other grad students.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
If I could change anything in science it would be how little (sometimes) grad students are appreciated within academia. Grad students help to run PI’s projects and labs, teach, organize undergrads, do outreach, plan workshops, review and write papers. In summary, GRAD STUDENTS KEEP LABS AND SCIENCE GOING (for a very small pay).

“If I could change anything in science it would be how little grad students are appreciated within academia.”

Constanza Silva

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
My parents and my partner. They always told me that I was capable of doing anything that I wanted and I have! I moved to study abroad in a language that is not mine.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
This week was the introduction to the fellows of the Prevention and Methodology Training and I am so excited about this amazing workgroup. Getting this training grant is pushing me to explore my research topic from very different angles, which means more collaborations with other great people. This opportunity will help me to move towards research that can actually have an impact for prevention and public policies of substance use in Chile.


#WomenInSTEM, #LatinasInSTEM, #BrownInSTEM

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