Thursday, August 15, 2013

Stylish Scientists: Shan

'Stylish Scientists' is a weekly series that brings you an exclusive peek at women in science and their style.  
The motto of the 'Stylish Scientist' is: "Always look chic while making a discovery!"

What stage of your science career are you in right now? 
I’m in an early stage of my career. I’m about to enter my third year in the Neuroscience program at UCSF. After graduation, I want to do a postdoctoral research in the US (another 4-5 years) and eventually have my own lab. 

Tell us a bit about your research 
I’m interested in studying the basic mechanisms of neural development. Specifically, I study how genes control the morphogenesis of dendrites, which receive and send synaptic or sensory inputs to the neuron. I use fruit flies’ sensory neurons to study the genes that control dendrite development. 

Your earliest fashion memory 
I grew up in Beijing, where everyone has to wear the same (really ugly!) uniforms from elementary school until college, so I don’t have many early fashion memories to speak of. Some of the “bad kids” would wear really nice clothes under the mandatory uniforms, and deliberately let a tiny bit of collar or sleeve peek through… and we all wore bracelets and all kinds of hair clips because that was what we could get away with. Once we got to college we didn't have uniforms anymore so people could start to find their own styles. I tended to gravitate towards Japanese and Korean designers. 

Do you have any style icons or people who influenced your style? 
Actually, I think my personal style was a reaction to the extremely feminine clothes that are popular in China. I was surrounded by girls in pink dresses with lacy frills and I think that drove me towards simpler and less girly choices.

Your favorite brands and places to shop 
I love Uniqlo and American Apparel for basics and because they often have clothes that fit me. I like Tretorn sneakers, a Swedish shoe brand that makes simple tennis shoes in some really nice colors. I like shopping when I’m back in Beijing because the selection is so large—one of my favorite markets (called “the zoo”) is literally the size of a city block and has thousands of tiny shops selling all kinds of interesting and unique clothes. 

You have lived in different places: what is the fashion scene in each of them? 
I’ve lived in Beijing, New York, Paris (briefly), and San Francisco:
In Beijing the scene is pretty diverse—there’s a lot of kind of regrettable stuff like black stockings in the hot summer, but you can truly find anything you could ever want. In one block there will be a genuine American vintage shop next door to a Japanese influenced boutique next to a huge mall with all the international brands… but overall I’d say the fashion scene is strongly influenced by Japan and Korea. 
New York is New York—certainly more formal than San Francisco, way less experimental than Beijing, which is both good (less straight-up unpleasant stuff) and bad (a bit boring at times). On the whole: a really well-dressed town. 
San Francisco is extremely casual, and since the weather is the same all year people tend towards a “uniform” of jeans, a band tee, and a hoodie… Even though the weather doesn’t actually change much at all, people tend to wear more colorful stuff in the summer and more somber tones in the winter. 

Your everyday science uniform 
Pretty much anything I want to wear, except my lab is really strict about no dresses without thick leggings or open toed shoes.

What do you think about dressing stylishly in the lab? 
I think it’s completely natural and also does something to offset the stereotype of scientists as men in white lab coats with thick glasses. 

Any thoughts about how the general public perceives scientists and their appearance? 
In the past science as a field has been dominated by white men without much style, so that contributed a lot to people’s stereotype of what a scientist looks like. I think as more and more women and people of other ethnic and cultural backgrounds enter science, people’s perception of scientists and their appearance will change (for the better!) 

What are your three favorite things to do in San Francisco! 
1.    I like hanging out on my fishing boat on sunny days. 
2.    I also like dragging my husband to the SF-SPCA to play with the adorable cats and dogs! 
3.    I love walking around the Mission district. It has the world’s best bread bakery (Tartine), incredible ice cream, great Mexican food, and a beautiful park all in a walkable area.

Pictures taken by Shan and her husband Eric. Edited by me. 

1 comment:

  1. Shan is so cute! I love her own unique style that she has developed. So cool to learn about her research!

    Much love,