Thursday, September 19, 2013

Stylish Scientists: Elena

'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!"

At what stage of science career are you?
I am doing my second postdoc after switching fields from microfluidics to biology.

Tell us briefly about your Ph.D. research and your current post-doctoral research.
My work as a postdoctoral researcher focuses on how the number of intestinal stem cells is controlled under physiological stresses and with aging, using Drosophila as a model system. My work has suggested a novel mechanism of intestinal stem cell replacement by differentiated daughters, which are normally used to uptake nutrients.
While my current postdoctoral research focuses on stem cell replacement and intestinal tissue regeneration, my PhD is in Organic Chemistry and my thesis work and first postdoc focused on developing microfluidic technologies to answer biological questions. As a graduate student, I developed novel microfliuidic platforms to spatiotemporally manipulate single cells ranging from the Drosophila embryo to bacteria. Most of my thesis focused on how the Drosophila embryo is accurately patterned by gradients of proteins to give rise to adults with the correct body parts in the correct proportions.
In the future, I am excited to combine what I have learned in the bio lab with my chemistry and engineering background.

Your earliest fashion memory?
Definitely shoes! I remember a pair of burgundy (present day “oxblood”) ballet flats with bows that my Mom bought for me when I was six. After trying them on, Mom took a picture of me in a jean jacket and my adored shoes looking so happy. That was the beginning of a lifelong love of shoes!

Who influenced your style?
My grandma and my Mom have definitely influenced my style.  My grandma used to sew fun dresses in pretty fabrics and her creativity definitely inspired my way of dressing, especially for more formal occasions outside of the lab!  She also sparked my love of knitting and crocheting various accessories (this winter I am upgrading to a sweater!).

How did the places where you lived influence your style choices?
I grew up in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin fashion is definitely more subdued and casual than New York.  Most of my high school outfits consisted of jeans and fun tops, which has carried through to my current daily wardrobe.  I lived in Chicago for 12 years throughout college, grad school, and my first postdoc.  I would say Chicago style is more colorful and very “J. Crew”, which became one of my favorite stores after moving there! Living in New York the past three years has inspired me to be more adventurous with my look, especially in terms of accessories.

Your favorite brands and places to shop
For everyday clothes, my favorite places to shop are J. Crew/J. Crew Factory, and Anthropologie.  I also love Club Monaco and French Connection.

Your everyday science uniform
Jeans, fun tops/sweaters, and colorful shoes and jewelry.

Do you dress differently now that you have finished your Ph.D.?
My overall style has stayed very similar to that in grad school, but I feel more comfortable dressing up now, as postdocs at Columbia tend to dress nicer.  I often wear dresses/leggings/more fun sparkly jewelry as a postdoc that I would not have been as comfortable wearing as a grad student in a Chemistry lab.  Also, the Chemistry lab has many more safety restrictions and hazardous materials, so I wore many layers that I could remove if working with acids, etc.

What do you think about dressing nicely while doing experiments in the lab?
I think it is great and really encourage women to dress their style as long as it complies with safety. In my case, feeling good in a fun outfit inspires my work in a way!

Any thoughts about how the general public perceives scientists and their appearance?
The general public definitely seems to perceive scientists as indifferent to fashion, especially when speaking in terms of women in science. But, I do not think it is specific to science, per say. I am also a huge fan of Indy cars and have also had several people tell me they cannot reconcile how a girl in a dress and heels could love auto races/the physics behind their speed.

What are your favorite spots in NYC?
I draw as a hobby, so I am always very inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and all of the many art museums/galleries in NYC. My other favorite spots include the Intrepid (for aircraft aficionados – also, the Enterprise is about the coolest thing I have ever seen!), the Museum of Natural History (a playground for a chemist who loves minerology), and Central Park/Fort Tryon (best for the Autumn foliage and many squirrels that I miss from the Midwest).

All photos are taken and edited by me.


1 comment:

  1. A Scientist and a fashion stylist in one. It might be an honor talking with her. It was also great that she was able to share a bit of her PhD research. That can also influence some readers who are doing research in science which can contribute in selecting for good thesis ideas. I'm sure you've also gain a lot of insights from her. I really enjoyed this post.