Featured on a recent episode of “Choosing to be Curious” on WERA 96.7 Radio Arlington, Bassett discussed her work in studying curiosity and the potential neural mechanisms behind it. In her work, Bassett strives to re-conceptualize curiosity itself, defining it as not just seeking new bits information, but striving to understand the path through which those bits are connected.
Bassett is a pioneering researcher in the field of network science and how its tools can be applied to understand the brain. Now, Bassett and her research team are using the tools of network science and complex systems theory to uncover what common styles of curiosity people share and how individual styles differ. In addition, the team is exploring if there are canonical types of curiosity among humans or if each person’s curiosity architecture is unique.
This isn’t the first time Bassett has combined the tools of disparate fields to pursue her research. For as long as she can remember, Bassett has been insatiably curious and, while she was homeschooled as a child, she often wandered from one subject to the next and let her own interest guide her path. For Bassett, studying curiosity with the tools of physical, biology, and engineering is a natural step in her research journey.
In her interview with host Lynn Borton, Bassett says:
“What took me to curiosity is the observation that there’s a problem in defining the ways in which we search for knowledge. And that perhaps the understanding of curiosity could be benefitted by a scientific and mathematical approach. And that maybe the tools and conceptions that we have in mathematics and physics and other areas of science are useful for understanding curiosity. Which most people would consider to be more in the world of the humanities than the sciences….“Part of what I’m hoping to do is to illustrate that there are connections between disciplines that seem completely separate. Sometimes some of the best ideas in science are inspired not by a scientific result but by something else.”
Sally and Kayla wrap up the You Do Belong in Science series with listener stories and lessons learned from this series. Listeners write in with stories about the importance of professors’ LGBTQ allyship and dealing with chronic illness in graduate school. Sally and Kayla reveal who does not belong in science (spoiler alert/content advisory: it’s sexual harassers). They also welcome allyship correspondent Jon Muncie to discuss actions everyone can take to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace, fairly judge peers’ research, and increase representation and promote the inclusion of people from underrepresented groups in STEM. He reminds Double Shelix that we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable when it comes to discussing and addressing these important issues facing our science workplaces.
Sally and Kayla thank the Berkeley Student Tech Fund, as well as Gustavo Villarreal @wikirascals for their graphics. Get your Double Shelix and You Do Belong in Science stickers at doubleshelix.com/stickers.
Share your thoughts on this episode — or your belonging story — on voicemail 415-895-0850 or email Double Shelix firstname.lastname@example.org. Sally and Kayla are on Twitter @doubleshelixpod and coming soon to Instagram @doubleshelixpodcast — give them a follow!
Professor Suhair Sunoqrot joins Sally and Kayla to discuss her experiences running her research lab at Al Zaytoonah University of Jordan and what she wishes international colleagues understood about the research climate in Jordan. Also on this episode, a listener is having a hard time fitting in while researching in another country, and Suhair’s experience finding belonging in research labs in the US and Europe is discussed. Suhair successfully balances her nanoparticle and drug delivery research with a heavy teaching load, and Sally and Kayla learn her secrets for making it work. Suhair is an outstanding researcher and mentor.
A STEM graduate degree can be a gateway to an amazing career, but many undergraduate students are unaware that these opportunities exist or how to navigate the grad school admission process. Guests Christina Fuentes and Shaheen Jeeawoody join Sally and Kayla to discuss strategies for enabling students to learn about and successfully apply to graduate school. Shaheen and Christina are both leaders in Graduate Pathways to STEM, a grad student-run organization that brings students from non-research institutions to Berkeley or Stanford for a 1-day conference to learn about the opportunities a graduate degree presents, what grad school is like, and how to navigate the admissions process. Conference attendees are paired with peer mentors and have the opportunity to interact with STEM leaders. They also discuss strategies for successful grad school applications, writing strong essays that advocate for yourself, Shaheen and Christina’s pathways to graduate school, and the value of peer mentorship: “Peer mentorship kept me in the PhD.” If you’re considering applying to graduate school, want to improve your writing, or want to understand how your community can be more welcoming to graduate students of all backgrounds, you will LOVE this episode.
Many students arrive in college under-prepared for success, and professors have the responsibility– and opportunity — to help them gain skills to enable their success and find belonging in STEM. However, few professors are trained to help students develop these skills, so Double Shelix’s guest, Sherri Messersmith, incorporates them into her series of developmental math textbooks! On this episode, Sherri shares her journey in math, from besting elementary school bullies on every math test, to high school math teacher, to college math professor, and now author of 15 college math textbooks. Kayla and Sally discuss with Sherri how staying true to your passions outside your main focus area — like writing, cooking, and travel, for Sherri — can make you better at your job, and even open the door to new opportunities — like textbook authorship! Sherri tells Sally and Kayla what departments can do to engage with students in introductory courses and how to build students’ confidence in difficult material. As Sherri says, life is not linear, so follow your passions, work hard, and be ready if fortune strikes with an amazing opportunity! Sherri is an experienced educator and speaker on the topic of enabling student success, and Double Shelix was honored to have her.
Also on this episode, Sally and Kayla hear from a listener who was told by professors that they didn’t belong in their grad program because they went to a small liberal arts college, not a big research institution — what?! We discuss how students take these kinds of comments from faculty really harshly, and how faculty can do better. Also, the importance of peer support in making it through trying times when you’re singled out or are the “only one.”
Upcoming #YouDoBelongInScience episodes will feature your stories! Fill out this form or call Double Shelix’s voicemail, 415-895-0850, to share your story of (dis)belonging in STEM. Sally and Kayla are hoping to share a diverse set of experiences from our listeners, but they need your help to make that happen!
The real value of STEM outreach is the positive youth development and mentorship that students receive. Being inspired to pursue a STEM career? That’s just a welcome bonus, says guest Noni Williams, a math graduate student and data scientist . Noni joins Kayla and Sally of the Double Shelix podcast to discuss effective strategies for STEM and professional development outreach to kids and teens and her extensive experience leading initiatives from robotics and digital art festivals to AP Computer Science and slam poetry. Also, allyship correspondent Jon Muncie checks in for a discussion on how we can all work to distribute the burden of emotional labor equitably in our workplaces and beyond.
Sally and Kayla also discuss with Noni her experiences being the only woman and/or student from an underrepresented background in her graduate mathematics courses and balancing work as a data scientist at United Way of the Midlands with graduate school. Noni gives advice for others in similar situations. Some of Noni’s keys to success including tracking gratitude, finding peer mentors, and defining clear boundaries around her time. Noni brings her *extensive* experience leading STEM outreach initiatives for kids and teens to this episode.
Upcoming #YouDoBelongInScience episodes will feature your stories! Fill this form or call our voice mail, 415-895-0850, to share your story of (dis)belonging in STEM. Sally and Kayla are hoping to share a diverse set of experiences from our listeners, but they need you to help make that happen!
Get your Double Shelix and You Do Belong in Science stickers here.
Today, we post the first of the You Do Belong in Science series of podcasts from Double Shelix. In this episode, Dr. Tamara Alliston, PhD, Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UCSF, discusses her journey into science and academia, and how she found belonging through peer mentorship, despite imposter syndrome. As a mentor, Tamara works to help mentees “stay connected to what gives them joy,” and they also discuss what brings Tamara joy — musculoskeletal biology and surfing with her family! Tamara stresses the importance of STEM outreach to adult audiences and shares her practical tips for “making this life work.” Finally, they dispel myths about the Pipeline Problem, and Tamara shares some data about funding disparities in orthopedic surgery. Everyone is encouraged to dig into the data to learn about funding demographics in their own field; for most of us, there’s still a long way to go. Bonus: Tamara’s qualifying exam advice!
* Berkeley Student Tech Fund
* Gustavo Villarreal, @wikirascals on Twitter, for Double Shelix’s logo
* Kaz Lewis, for their official portraits on our website — follow him on Instagram @kazlewis
* The listeners of Double Shelix, for telling your friends about our podcast and our #YouDoBelongInScience campaign
In the latest podcast from Double Shelix and produced by Penn Bioengineering, Julea Vlassakis, mentorship expert and Bioengineering PhD Candidate, joins Kayla and Sally to talk mentoring in academia and beyond. Learn how to establish productive mentor/mentee relationships and cultivate the next generation of scientists — yourself included! Beginning mentees and seasoned mentors alike will learn something new from Julea’s wisdom. Discover strategies for breaking out of the cycle of mediocre mentorship, how to deal with underperforming mentees, tips for cultivating a community of mentors within your field, and how to get a mentor to step up for your career goals. Stay tuned to the end for Julea’s list of mentor and mentee responsibilities — supported by peer-reviewed literature, of course! This is next-level mentorship.
Spoiler alert: Mentor/Mentee Responsibility Number Zero is “Establish clear goals and expectations!”
If you’ve listened to our podcasts, then you’ve heard the work of Kayla and Sally at Double Shelix. They’ll be running a special series of podcasts next month and are asking for readers’ help. Please read the below, and if you decide to participate, let them know that Penn Bioengineering sent you!
You do belong in science – even if it doesn’t always seem like it. Penn Bioengineering‘s affiliate podcast, Double Shelix, is launching a special series on the theme You do Belong in Science. This series will bring together experts in science, education, and inclusion in conversation about creating STEM communities where all can feel belonging.
As part of this, we are seeking stories from members of our STEM communities (including Penn Bioengineering!) about times when they felt like they did or didn’t belong in science. Sharing these stories can help all to feel that they are not alone in their occasional (or frequent!) feelings of imposter syndrome/isolation.
Prompts (Respond to whichever moves you! Questions are great too!) – Is there a time when you felt like you did not belong in science? What happened and how did it make you feel?
– What would you say to someone who is experiencing dis-belonging?
– What can the scientific community (or your school/department/professors/peers) do to help people experience belonging?
Subscribe to Double Shelix now on iTunes or Google Play Music to catch the episodes when they launch in April! And a sneak peek trailer is coming soon! Also, the most recent episode in our feed is all about wellness in graduate school – and features some voices familiar to Penn Bioengineers! More info on our site – doubleshelix.com and our mailing list (sign up here).
Thanks a million and remember, you do belong in science!
Sally Winkler + Kayla Wolf
4th year PhD Students, UC Berkeley/UCSF Bioengineering
Founders, Double Shelix Podcast
Penn Bioengineering PhD students Meagan Ita and Michael Magaraci join Sally and Kayla from Double Shelix to discuss wellness in graduate school. Going in, graduate students expect they’ll have to work hard, but most students are unprepared for the mental anguish that grad school can induce – especially when experiments aren’t going well, or when we compare to themselves to others’ successes. Meagan and Mike discuss the importance of actively taking charge of your own wellness, and what departments can do to support student wellness. Things also get real with discussions of the value therapy and/or medicine to address depression or anxiety, and we sound off on the harm caused by toxic mentor/mentee relationships. If you’ve struggled with being well, want to stay well, or want to support others on their journey to wellness, check this out!