Jennifer A. Honeycutt
Jennifer A. Honeycutt, Postdoctoral Research Associate
Life Inside the Lab
What is your research topic? Broadly, my research investigates how early life stressors impact the developmental trajectory of behavior and neural functioning in a sex-specific manner. I am particularly interested in how early insults make the brain more vulnerable (or resilient) to later stressors, and how ethologically relevant diathesis-stress models can be used to understand cognitive dysfunction in disorders such as schizophrenia and anxiety.
Dr. Jennifer Honeycutt is a postdoctoral fellow and part-time faculty at Northeastern University in Boston.
What did you study in university? In college I studied fine arts before changing my major to psychology with a concentration in neuroscience. In graduate school, I studied Behavioral Neuroscience with a special interest development and cognition in psychiatric illnesses.
What does your average day look like? My day-to-day activities in the lab change depending on the experiment(s) being conducted at that time. As of recently, my average day consist of stereotaxic surgeries and/or brain slicing/staining and data analysis. I also spend time every day working with the graduate and undergraduate students in the lab teaching them different techniques and helping guide their research projects. Oh, and coffee. LOTS of coffee.
A sectioned brain that is frozen, and ready to be sliced for analysis.
What is your favorite piece of lab equipment? This comes down to a tie between two things: the freezing microtome and my immunohistochemistry paintbrush. There is something so relaxing and satisfying about slicing a brain on the microtome (I could do it all day…and have). As for my paintbrush, anyone who has spent a lot of time staining and mounting brain sections can tell you that a great paintbrush is indispensable and, despite being a low-tech piece of equipment, is probably the thing I am most protective of in the lab.
Life Outside of Lab
Where did you grow up? Goffstown, NH
What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? As a kid I was 100% sure that I would be a zoologist (kid-me would say, more specifically, a tiger conservationist). Not gonna lie, I still would love to spend all day with tigers…though I guess my rats will have to suffice!
What do you do to relax outside of lab? Outside of lab I love spending time with my wife and our furkid, Tök. I also enjoy watching movies (any zombie movie, horror film, or psychological thriller is top of the list!) and enjoying some good wine (especially a nice New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc).
Do you have any pets? We have an 8-month-old Vizsla named Tök (though don’t let him know he’s a pet, he’s convinced he’s human).
Tök hanging out by the fireplace with his mommies.
Do you have any fun hobbies? While I may have changed my major from fine arts to psych/neuro in college, I still love to make art! These days, I channel my creativity into making jewelry, which I also sell on Etsy. I love using natural gemstones (which of us DIDN’T love sparkly rocks as a kid?!) and hammering away at metal wire – not only is it cathartic after a long day in the lab, but it also ends in something beautiful and tangible. I have also started making neuron jewelry, which has been an incredible adventure of combining my two loves: science and art!
What is your family life, and how did it develop along with your career?I life with my amazing wife, Christina, who I have been with for almost 9 years, and we will be married for 3 years this May! We met while I was still an undergrad and she has been with me through my transition into neuroscience and research, and has been my biggest advocate and supporter. As many in the STEM fields know, being with someone in academia/research can be very challenging, especially since we rarely know where we will be next. Christina has been amazingly flexible and supportive of my career path, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her!
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? DO IT! Find any/every way you can get involved – the sooner the better! There are lots of great programs that support young women interested in the sciences, and programs which pair these students with labs/mentors so that they can get experience early on. We are often told that science is difficult, or that STEM fields are more for the ‘boys’ – don’t ever let anyone tell you this! If you have the interest and the motivation, you can be anything you want – including an amazing scientist!
Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Women have a lot to bring to the table (or lab bench, in this case), and provide critical and innovative perspective to fields which have been, and continue to be, largely dominated by men. The over reliance on the male perspective does a disservice to the integrity of the research being conducted, and this is especially apparent in the sex-biases seen in much of the published research. Additionally, there need to be more women in STEM to serve as role models and pioneers for future generations of women scientists to show that it is possible for a woman to be a leader in innovative research.
Are there any women in STEM who are inspiring you right now? My undergraduate mentor, Dr. Melissa Glenn, and my Postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Heather Brenhouse, are two of the most inspirational women in STEM that I have encountered. They embody everything I believe a successful scientist should be, and show resounding dedication to research, advocacy, and family both in and out of the lab.
What is your favorite book? The Perks of Being a Wallflower
What is your favorite desk snack? Haribo Gummy Bears (especially the pineapple ones)
Silver neuron pendants made by Dr. Honeycutt. Check out more of her beautiful jewelry here: www.petitemaus.etsy.com
What would you listen to while writing? It depends on my mood and what I am writing, though lately I have been listening to a lot of Purity Ring (seriously, Fineshrine is such a great song)
What was your favorite subject in high school?I loved most of my classes in HS, though my favorites were definitely any art course, AP Bio, and Anatomy & Physiology.
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? I have a bunch of designer vinyl toys on my desk, but the strangest (/COOLEST?!) are my Jumping Brains (a brain with frog legs) designed by Emilio Garcia.
Organization nut, or curated chaos? If you ask my students: organization nut. If you ask my wife: chaos.
Another fun fact… I love science tattoos! I have a tattoo of a human brain, and one of a Long Evans rat – and plan on getting more!
What color socks are you wearing? Grey and black
Check out more about Jenn’s research here:
Here are links to Jenn’s recent published work from her dissertation and postdoc, both elucidating the role of parvalbumin on cognition over development.