Meredyth Wegener, Graduate Student
University of Pittsburgh
LIFE INSIDE THE LAB
What is your work/research topic? I am interested in how the dopamine system encodes learning and reward, especially in adolescents and those with omega-3 dietary deficiency.
Meredyth Wegener is a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh. Follow Meredyth on Twitter @whynotwegener
What was your best day of science? Judging the Intel International Science Fair
What was your worst day in science? Not getting into graduate school right out of college felt the worst but turned out for the best.
What did/are you study at university? My undergraduate major was Neuroscience with a minor in Latin.
What does your average day look like? I write for a couple hours in the morning and then do data analysis on the data for my thesis at the moment.
What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? I like the electrophysiological equipment in my lab the best. Watching neurons in the brain work live in real time is amazing.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF LAB
Where did you grow up? Baltimore, MD
What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I’m not sure I thought about it much, I wasn’t a very motivated kid.
What do you do to relax outside of lab? I play board games
Do you have any pets? not personally, but my family has a lot of dogs.
Do you have any fun hobbies? I like my board games, and I occasionally rock climb, but not as much since I moved to Pittsburgh.
If you want to talk about your family, what is your family life? My parents are both in the academic/medical realm and my sister works in retail. My boyfriend is also a graduate student, but is in Chemistry and almost done!
Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? When I moving from middle school to high school, I turned down the chance to be in honors math. It sounded like too much work and I wasn’t really interested in math. What I didn’t realize was that this would bar me from honors physics and chemistry. My chemistry teacher saw I was bored in class and had me teach part of the lecture. She also encouraged me to volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I think the aquarium really sealed it for me.
Why were you drawn to science? I’ve also been very curious about why people did what they did and the biology behind that. Asking a lot of questions often leads to an interest in science.
Did you ever consider another career path? My parents really wanted me to go to medical school. If I hadn’t gotten into graduate school, I probably would have started there.
How close was your schooling related to your current job? Very closely.
What was your biggest challenge during your degree? I’ve always struggled with scientific writing as well as maintaining memorized facts. When I took my comprehensive exam my third year, it felt like I was doomed. It’s an intense crucible for people with struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’. It seems inevitable that you will be found out as not good enough and dismissed. Success in graduate school is more about persistence than smarts though, and I got through it eventually.
What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I want to teach science at a college level, and a PhD was the only way I knew to do that.
What is your best advice for girls interested in science? Keep going. It doesn’t work often, and there will be a lot of criticism, but it is all a learning opportunity. Persistence and fortitude are your best tools. Also, talk to people who live the life you think you might want. Most people like sharing their stories, and it is one of the best sources of accurate information and advice.
Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? Right now, the STEM system feels rigid. Like there is one way to get where you are going, and if you can’t make it, tough. But that doesn’t seem to foster innovation or passion, which is crucial to the field. If more women became involved, I think we would be able to better explore alternative paths and approaches.
What is your favorite book? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
What is your favorite desk snack? Cheez-its
What is your favorite cartoon? Calvin and Hobbes
What would you listen to while writing? Instrumental versions of rap and hiphop music
What was your favorite subject in high school? Photography
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? A drawing of me as a scientist cat. I can send you a picture if you want
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Organization enthusiast
Any other fun fact about you… I did my first year of college in Ireland because I didn’t like any of the colleges I got into in the US.
What color socks are you wearing? light green smartwool socks with hearts on the side, a Christmas present from my grandmother