In this episode, Mallory talks to Dr. Kaela Singleton, a neuroscientist at Emory University.
Dr. Singleton talks about her love of school, neuroscience, and her studies in rare neurological disorders and neurodevelopment disorders.
Welcome to West Virginia University's Women in Science and Medicine podcast, brought to you by the Health Sciences Center's Office of Research and Graduate Education. We talk to women with careers in these fields, gaining their insight into what it's like operating roles that are still mostly dominated by men.
I'm your host Mallory Weaver. And today my guest is Dr. Kaela Singleton. She's a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Cell Biology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke D Spann or diversity specialized pre-doctoral to post-doctoral advancement in neuroscience award scholar, a bureaus welcome fund post-doctoral enrichment fellow and co-founder and president elect of the black and neuro organization. Welcome Dr. Singleton. And thank you so much for sitting down with me today. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me. This is really cool. That is such an amazing intro. I'm so grateful to have you on today.
The first two questions that I ask all my guests are really just centered around getting our audience to know you a little better. So can you first just please take us and our listeners through a brief journey through your education and your role today? Yeah, so I started, my love of neuroscience really came kind of randomly in the seventh grade.
We had this science outreach event where we got to dissect all of these sheep brains. And I just thought it was really cool. Like it was the most hands-on thing I had ever done in school. And I was like 12, I think. And before that I only really liked, I wasn't like a science kid. I liked listening to music and reading books and talking about literature, but.
I like science, wasn't my thing. And I was always good in school, but I never, like, I don't know. I wasn't like a math superstar or science genius, but when it came time to go to pick colleges and apply, I like remembered that science outreach thing. And I was like, this is what I wanna do. I wanna study the brain.
And I definitely didn't know what a neuroscientist was and outside from my K through 12 teachers, I had never met a scientist before, but I had sort of set my mind that that was what I would do. And so when I was applying to college I only applied to colleges that had neuroscience majors, which in 2010 was not that many places.
And I ended up at Agnes Scott College, which is a private all women's college in Decatur primarily because of like the small class sizes and the fact that they had a neuroscience major and had. Graduates of that program. And then while I was at Agnes, I earned a bunch of fellowships to do research at Georgia State University at Vanderbilt University.
I did some research at Agnes Scott College, and I also did some research at Emory University. And so by my junior year my mentors were really like, you should go to graduate school. And because I had never really fathom having like a real person job yet. I was like, yeah, I'll just keep, I'll keep going to school.
Like I'm good at school. Yeah. And so I applied to a bunch of Graduate programs. I think I applied to like seven, I got interviews at six and then I got offers from five of them. And I ended up picking Georgetown university's interdisciplinary program in neuroscience, in Washington, DC. Mainly for the people.
And because at that point I realized I needed to get a job eventually. And I was like, well, there are tons of jobs in DC. I can figure something out there. Sure. Right. And then when I was in graduate school, I earned some more fellowships that funded my research and my training. And eventually I earned the D spans fellowship.
So that funded the last two years of my grad work and now funds four years of my postdoctoral fellowship, which I have right now. And I decided I wanted to come back to Georgia and be closer to family. And so now I work in the cell biology department at Emory and I study rare neurological disorders or neurodevelopmental disorders.
And my day to day really looks. Waking up checking my email, like planning experiments, and doing them. Sometimes I'll teach a couple of classes every semester at my Alma mater at Agnes, which is always really great. And a lot of those are like hands on labs where we talk about like the foundations of neuroscience and they like build and design their own experiments.
But yeah, that's. That's how I got here. That's great. And so you, you actually covered the second question. What inspired you as a young woman or a girl to pursue a career in science? Anything you wanted to add there, or it's just really that kind of seventh grade experience that really set you on that path?
I think it was that seventh grade experience, but I also will say while I was doing science in college and learning about what it was, I was. Naturally good at it. And so I wanted to keep doing it. And so a lot of what fueled me to like, be better at it and learn more about it. Like learn about graduate school and academia was the fact that I was just sort of naturally gifted at this thing.
Mm-hmm and I, like, I had to put in a lot of hard work and stuff like that, but I felt really supported in doing that. Sure. And so, yeah, I think that's it. That's lovely. For our listeners first, I'll say the black and neuro website is, and you can visit email@example.com. The organization's mission statement is to quote, diversify the neurosciences by building a community that celebrates and empowers black scholars and professionals in neuroscience related fields.
And quote, tell us more about that organization, how you came to be a part of it, and now as you co-founded it, and you now leave it. Yeah. So black and narrow is a grassroots sort of trainee driven. We're officially a nonprofit of 501C3, which is been, yeah, which is fantastic. That's great.
I never thought in my life that I would ever like be president elect of a nonprofit but it really started after The after a black murder's week and black and the Astro week. And really with that sort of racial and social justice call to action, that sort of sweeped the nation in early 20, 20 after the murders of Brianna Taylor and George Floyd and Maha Aubrey.
And so there had been a black birders week. In a black and after week and Angeline, our current president essentially tweeted, when are we gonna have a black and narrow week? And one of my friends like tagged me in it. And we literally, she sent out that tweet, like three days later, we had a zoom meeting to like organize the week.
And two days later we had like a website. We had like all of this stuff, like ready to go. And so. So much of it really came, I think, from all of us being in the right place at the right time. Sure. But it really, I think has ballooned into something bigger than that. So thus far we've had like a black and neuro conference.
We've had we have a seminar series where we highlight black scholars in like the neurosciences, everyone from academia to industry to medicine. We have workshops on things like negotiating on interviews. Oh, wow. Yeah. We even have workshops for mentors about creating like equitable spaces and diversity and things like that.
So it's been really great and I feel like a lot of the work that black and arrow does is because of like the community. Not just. Like the 22 of us, like who are on the board and, and do all of the organizing, but all of the other like scholars. And I actually remember when black Andera started we had like the first day, which is like black and neural roll call where you just like, introduce yourself on, on social media and like say who you are and what you do.
And I remember I was so. I was so happy, but I was also so overwhelmed and kind of mad because at that point in my career, I had been doing neuroscience since 2012. So for eight years, and I had always been like the only black person sure. In those spaces. And so I was like, where have we been? Like, where have we all been?
And so it was a moment of like immense joy to like see all of that and to meet so many like new people too. Yeah. That's such a great I think that's a great story around initiative. Right. And, and also curiosity, I think it seems in talking to you that one of your strengths is just curiosity, which is probably why you're so good at science because it, you know, you're consistently asking questions and I love that.
Also for our listen. Dr. Singleton has her very own website. It's at Kayla singleton.com. That's K a E L a singleton.com. It's very informative about your research, but it's also tongue in cheek to some degree, it made me laugh. So it's definitely worth a trip even for a, non-scientist such as myself.
One thing that caught my eye is that you cited having successfully conquered. Exactly. Four out of five bouts with imposter syndrome within 365 days of Kayla as Singleton PhD. I, I don't remember if I've ever brought up imposter syndrome on this show before, but I know it's something I myself have struggled with and I think it really hits women and also graduate students, particularly hard.
Can you describe those experiences and how you manage them and any sort of tips or tricks you have to avoid imposter syndrome? Yeah. I feel like I definitely agree. I feel like imposter syndrome and the imposter like phenomenon is, is so it just like runs rampant so many times when I talk to graduate students or I guess like we are in the era of this podcast, like when I talk to women who are in predominantly male fields, mm-hmm and so for me, My imposter syndrome really manifests in a way where I just feel like I'm gonna get caught all of the time.
Like, someone's gonna be like, oh, she's not really she. Oh, wow. She's talking. Yeah. That's fascinating. Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's interesting too, because the, like that imposter syndrome is it like manifests differently for everybody. So it looks a little bit different. Yeah. And in the first year of my postdoc, I was like, Was well, even now still, I was like wildly more successful than I ever thought I would be my goal really in leaving graduate school and starting my postdoc.
I just thought I was gonna be like a regular, regular postdoc. Like no one was gonna know who I was or like, I wouldn't be involved with things like black and neuro that I was just gonna like put my head down and do science. And then I started like earning all of these fellowships and like winning these awards.
And it was like really overwhelming. And I felt like I was like, Just like a little kid in a trench coat running around like a fraud. Yeah. Yeah. Like a fraud, like convincing all of these people that I was like super great, even though I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. And I think one of the best ways that I.
I combat I've combated that is through like building the community of friends. Yes. Just like my peers. Yes. Where we just like openly talk about that kind of thing. Mm-hmm I think another great thing that I do, it was advice boon to me from my friend, Dr. Daniel Gonzalez. He's a postdoc at Purdue. Which is his big thing is always.
Look around at, at how everything is a mess and all of these people who are in charge, who you like hold to really high standards and you really Revere you was like, and see how they're doing. You can do that job. Like compare, compare yourself to them in this way. That's like, oh, well, if like Thomas Cash, who's a very famous neuroscientist can.
Be the head of like research at duke and like do all of these things, but he makes dad jokes on the internet and is a goofball all the time. Yeah. He can do that too. And so I think a lot of overcoming and posture syndrome for me has been about finding the right people to talk to and having them reassure me of myself.
And then I think on a bigger level, another, another thing that I try to do now is I really try and seek. I no longer seek validation from other people about like my place in my field or in my like office or anything like that. And I feel like a lot of the times, especially as a grad student, I would make my career goals based off of proving myself to other people as opposed to what I actually wanted to do.
Right. And this is kind of the first time in my life that I've ever gotten to sit down and be. Look at all of these things that I have accomplished, what do I really wanna do next with my life? Like where do I wanna use my powers for? Good. Where do I wanna like expand and grow? And I feel like that gives you a lot of agency and autonomy, and it makes it really easy to combat the imposter syndrome because you're doing things because you want to do them.
Not because you're like proving yourself to like these non-existent people in a room. If that makes sense. Absolutely. There's so many points there that I wanna highlight. That I think are fantastic. Number one, what you just mentioned, I think if you don't love what you do, you're doomed to fail and you know, you to rely on others to tell you what you love to do is just fall, total.
Yeah. Fall. And then I think the other thing much like diversity in general is pulling the curtain back on it and having discussions about it like this, like. Having, you know, an honest conversation that, yeah, you have this too sometimes, maybe not all the time. And then, you know, and people admitting that they have it and how to overcome it.
And then the third thing that I really loved was you mentioned kind of that network of individuals to build you up. I, I had a very I had a very specific experience just recently where. I told you before we began recording, I'm a graduate of the integrated marketing communications program here at WVU.
And they host a co a national conference called integrate. And it was at here at WVU just this month. And in advance of that, they reach out to alums and ask, do you wanna be a mentor for current IC students? And I initially. That email honestly went right into my trash bin. I, I was like, I just graduated in 2019 from the program.
I, I don't. And then they, they had a lack, you know, it was, they, the original deadline was April and then, you know, they ran it to may. And I got that email again. I forwarded that email to another woman in my office who was also an IMC grad, and she's much more experienced with the program. She actually worked within the program and I said, should I do this?
She was like, yes, apply right now. You know, you host a podcast for goodness sake. So yeah, it's really important to have people in your corner that are kind of reminding you, you got this many fellowships, you lead this organization, you do this, you do this. And yeah, it's odd that we don't. Remember our own accomplishments.
Okay. Yeah, definitely. We don't acknowledge them. Yeah, we did the work, but we're not. We're very, and I think that's also a symptom of women in society as well. We talk about this a lot in a separate event that I host. Around the women at work podcasts through Harvard business review, we, how old listening parties.
And then we kind of discuss the topics at hand, and that comes up a lot in women being reluctant to put themselves forward and say, I did this I'm knowledgeable. I know what I'm doing. We kind of like, you know, shrug it off sometimes. And it's, it's hard. Get past that I think sometimes. Yeah. And I think for me, especially I grew up in, I grew up in Georgia, like in the south and I very much grew up in one of those Southern households that was like little girls are meant to be seen and not heard like in this very much, this tone of like being a woman or being a girl was about being like obedient and quiet.
And like not taking up a lot of space in rooms. And I feel like it wasn't until I went to college that I really started to unlearn that, but it was, it's such a hard thing to, to unlearn and to really emphasize and like focus on yourself now. And I will say my parents have made like tons of strides in realizing how not great that was
But at the time it was like really of the time, like at all of my friends were that way. Yeah. But I. In the south that always hold that sentiment always holds true to me, but I find it in all women to some degree, they're always kind of taught that like, oh, you don't like, you're just meant to be here as sort of this like figurehead, you don't have to do anything.
And so when you do accomplish something, you. Like, I feel like it can feel kind of like weird. Like, you don't know how to, like you were saying, you don't know how to celebrate yourself and sort of prop yourself up. Am I bragging or yeah, exactly. Yeah. Like, am I being like conceited or is this sure? Yeah.
Yeah. Be conceited . Yeah. Also on your website, you would identify as she, but also black Samoan and queer. I wanna touch on that because women have a hard enough time in stem fields. For various reasons, but we know that being a woman of color and certainly a member of the LGBTQ plus community can be even more challenging.
And I'd love for listeners to hear about any challenges you've faced around these identities and how you've navigated that. Yeah, I think the, the biggest like is, or like struggle that I've always had in term is always been in terms of like being a black woman. And I, I feel like. Because of, I grew up in a very like affluent suburb of Atlanta mm-hmm and it was a, it was a really like looking back on it.
It was a really strange community because we were all really progressive like the like our high school, like govern president, our, our like student body president was a gay black man who was my friend, a lot of the students. We're like out. And we were like just a really thriving community.
And it was, it was one of those instances in life where I had not come to, I had not like, learned enough about black scholarship and black feminism to really understand that like this world that I lived in, where people didn't see color was on some level detrimental to me. And so. When I went to college, it was the first time that I learned that I got to read like literature by black people that I learned about black women.
In a way that was like all encompassing, not just like one, one off story or like one, one off like class or something like that. And I was really becoming like really empowered in who I was as a person. And when I went to graduate school, I will say, I think a big part of that is because Agnes is such a progressive like feminist place, because it is an all women's college.
It really pushes you and teaches you new things. And I think that that's so valuable. And so when I went to graduate school at Georgetown, I was all. I was like sort of dropped in this predominantly white space where people hadn't been having discussions about what it means to be like a black woman or a white woman, or like a woman period, like what is womanhood to you?
And so it was really jarring. And when I earned my DS span fellowship, After I had earned it. It's a diver, it's a diversity fellowship. Mm-hmm . But after I had earned it, one of my old mentors at the time made this comment, that the only reason I got the fellowship was because I was black and that like my science didn't match up, that my science had to.
Match the like skill and success of this program, because they basically just gave me the fellowship and it was really soul crushing. And it goes back to that imposter syndrome thing that we were talking about because I, on some level was incredibly like ashamed and embarrassed because I was like, well, what if she's right?
Like what if for some odd reason that is true. And it, I remember in that moment, How like sad I was, but I, and because I was so like ashamed, I didn't tell anybody that she said that to me. Aw. I just kind of like, yeah. Pushed through and was like, okay, well, I like, I can just work really hard and I'll figure this out.
But a couple of months went by and she, and I basically just kept budding heads over like random, like science things, like random things. And I told one of, I eventually told like a postdoc in our lab that she had said that to me and thank God for her. Cause she got so upset and she I'm angry right now.
Yeah. She was like, how dare she angry? Yeah. And I was like, Oh real, like you don't agree. like, I, no, I just didn't know what to do with it. And first of all, the goal in saying that to, so even if you think it, my word works. Yeah. And so I feel like that that is always one of those moments that really sticks out to me as a time in which I was just like, oh no, this was horrible.
And there was another time. I think this was earlier on in graduate school where somebody, I was like writing a personal statement for a fellowship and somebody asked me. They basically were like, use the traumas of your childhood to like, you know, make your, your personal statement, like a little bit more personal.
They were like, you know, because you grew up like poor. And I was like, no, I did it. Like, I'm my Ginette county, like, gosh. And it's so it's weird. It can be really weird and hard to navigate those spaces and all of those identities. And I feel like a lot of the time, for me, at least as a black woman, like my queer identity rarely comes up probably because I am like a feminine presenting person.
And so I, I definitely have always had more struggles, like being a black woman and having those sort of racial comments thrown at me in ways that are really jarring. And I think it's also. It's hard because I think about it now. Like I think about it now at 30, but when this happened, I was like 24.
And like, I would dare someone to say that to me now, but at 24 you're so like such a vulnerable age. Yeah. Yeah. And especially like a vulnerable age, but also like being in graduate school is like kind of vulnerable. Like you're constantly learning. And so you're being humbled every day by little bits of failure in new ways.
And it's a long journey. It's a, it's a, yeah. It's, it's a long journey. And. And I think it was hard too, because you're supposed to go on that journey with your mentor. And my mentor had just admitted to me that she thought that I wasn't all that bright in science that I could like get by just because I was black.
And I like that's, that's terrifying because. When you describe how unsure that made you and how I mean, that's, Ugh, you're just, thankfully you overcame it, but it just, you can really undercut, you could end someone's scientific career. Yeah. And that's, when you think about what science does, what it does for human beings for the world.
Cutting out any scientist from the race, right? From the, from the game. Yeah. Is that's a, you you're, you're not just hurting that individual. I, I argue that you're not doing the world a, a service. Yeah. Right. I mean, that's just. It's UN it's unfortunate. And I, and I it's, it just to me brings home the importance of continuing to have these conversations because people need to be aware.
Sometimes people don't. I think people don't mean it even. Yeah, certainly that was very directed and could not be taken any other way. But I think the more people are aware of how this affects the people they're talking to. And how it's not, it's not, people were just mad. It, you could really.
Damage someone's self esteem or end their career. That's heartbreaking. Yeah. You are first and speaking of diversity. Your first author on a 2021 publication titled a year in review are DEI diversity equity and inclusion initiatives, fixing systemic barriers. I wanted to talk about that because I think most of us can agree that it's important to have data on whether DEI efforts are hitting the mark or they're of little to no value.
So what did you what did you particularly study in that paper and, and what did you find? Yeah, so that was a commentary written by me and some other Like members and scholars at in black and neuro. And we really, after sort of this social justice, reckoning of 2020, wanted to know if all of the, like sort of promises that institutions had made new fellowships and just like discussions in round tables, people were having were really doing anything to, to fix the DEI issues that we were having.
And the answer is pretty much no but I think that there's. There's a lot of hope and a lot of work that could be done. One of the things that we focus on in the article a lot is that a lot of the solutions that we have to these DEI efforts are coming from. Or a lot of the work is being done by like people with very little power.
So like graduates, like undergrads, graduate students like staff to graduate students or the work is being done in these small circles and spheres. Right. Where it's like your individual lab or your like graduate class. Right. That's doing a lot of work as opposed to getting like sort of institutional top down support and funding for those things.
Right. Because I, I feel like. A lot of the DEI effort I see are, are essentially out to either fix or just increase the number of, excuse me, of diverse people entering science. So it's not doing anything to help. The like graduate students or the postdocs that are currently in science. Right. But it's like here's 15 million to start this new program to get more undergraduates, to come into the field of neuroscience, for example.
And while that's beautiful and great that 15 million is not doing anything to address all of the issues that current neuroscientists have. Right. Whether that's. Pay, whether that's hours, whether that's work culture or grant funding like the rate at which scholars of color are funded by NIH compared to like their white scholars or like white peers.
And so in the article, we really talk about this idea that like, there has to be some sort of structural change. There has to be some sort of top down initiative and we've seen some like really cool efforts in that regard. Right. Like who is it? I think it's the university of Chicago system started making mentorship and diversity equity inclusion, part of people's tenure packages.
Mm. Sort of like a metric to actually be used so that it can be valued. Other programs and sort of like funding initiatives too, where instead of funding, giving money to like the, the PI in a lab, you give the money to the scholar and the student. And that trainee is like, Path is what's funded just in case they're in a toxic environment or there's some sort of like accountability placed within the, the grant structure and mechanism.
Those are fascinating approaches. Yeah. Yeah. And so it was, it was really fun to write because I, I feel like it, it is my hope that the article really comes off as like, let's just make sure we're being intentional about how we're using our current time and resources, because I do think. Again, so much effort goes into like building the next generation of scientists, as opposed to taking care of the scientists that are like currently here trying to like get jobs and stuff.
right. Yeah. It, it sounds like more of a, a recruitment focus. Yeah, definitely. Instead of a supportive, all embracing sort of effort. Yeah. You were also featured in Forbes in their 30, under 30 scientists highlight what was that like? And did that create a boost for, at all, for your career? I was thinking in terms of networking and I was thinking it would be fun if you could kind of create a network of just those other scientists that were featured, that would be a cool group.
But tell me a little bit about that. Yeah, that was super cool and super surprising. I. Essentially, I got an email that someone had nominated me for the list. Oh, great. And there's like a form that you fill out where you just like, tell them about yourself kind of basically. And I filled it out like in early September and I, then I forgot about it because nothing like, I, I don't Donna.
Yeah. Well, I don't particularly like, know that much about Forbes 30, under 30, except for like the famous people that are on like the literal celebrities that are on it. Yeah. And so then one day I like woke up and I got the email that I was on the list and I think I cried. I was, so it was, it felt really validating and really like.
Empowering in a way, and this is a thing that I think I'm confident people can relate to. Like my dad and my N are so proud of me. They have no idea what I do though. They don't understand. a lot of the recognition I get for things. Yeah. But this, I was like this, they will totally understand. . Yeah. And so I was so hap like, honestly, for me, that was like the biggest thing.
I was so happy to share it with them. Yeah. And for them to be a part of that. And then in terms of. Boosting my career. I think, I think it did. I, I definitely got like more invitations to like speak at things I got more, I met a lot of cool scientists and. What I loved about it was that I met a lot of scientists who weren't neuroscientists.
So all kinds of scientists like astrophysicists or like epidemiologists. There's some really cool, like people on the list my year in the year before. And we have like a giant slack which is not the most functional thing because it's like all of the. All of the different Forbes lists in one giant slack, but we have like channels and stuff.
But it's been really cool to me though. The biggest thing was really being able to like tell my N that I was on the list and her to be so happy for me. That's so that's so funny. I relate when I began this podcast you know, I, I like the, even when, like the little demo episode came out with just the music and the intro, I was like, listen to.
Yeah. so, you know you know, bye bye, imposter syndrome yeah, those are those, those are those great moments where you can kind of shed that for a minute, shed that imposter syndrome and kinda, yeah. And, and it's always cool to brag family, right? They're not gonna call you out. Most. Yes. Yeah. speaking of networking, you, you seem to have done a wonder.
I'm so excited to have you on the show. You've done a wonderful job of putting yourself out there and showcasing a personal brand as a communications professional. In, in particular, I find that to be absolutely extraordinary. A certain stereotype exists that scientists aren't necessarily the most communicative types.
and I, I get, it's a stereotype. That's certainly not the case for everyone, but do you have any advice for graduate students in particular as they begin their professional careers and how they would go about creating their own personal brands? I think this is a question I think about a lot, cuz I interact with a lot of undergraduate students and one of the biggest things that they like struggle with on some level is just.
Like putting themselves out there and sort of being their authentic self, like, I feel like. One of the, the greatest gifts that I've given myself is the ability to just like, be myself on the internet. Yeah. And I was so happy that you said my website was funny because that's like, that's like part of the reason why I wanted to make it.
And so for me, a lot of like the, the like branding that I do around myself is really just like things that I enjoy. And it was always, it's been really important for me to. For little girls and for like, for little girls and like little kids for them to know that, like, I am also a scientist, like this is also how a scientist behave.
Sci, not all scientists are like boring and monotone, like right. Yeah. They, they have personalities and they have interests of course. And lot outside. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Outside of science and I, I feel like it's so rare. That you get to see that and showcase that. And so, like my biggest thing that I always tell people is to just like, make a website, even if it's just like a landing page and you can add as much of your like personality and wit I think I'm a hilarious person.
So I'm always making jokes about myself, but like, Even if that website is just like one page and it's just like your CV or your resume and a little picture of you in and about you, that's like one foot in the door to making something bigger and you can grow that over time. Like I made my website ran like two months after the like pandemic started, like in April.
Or may cuz I was bored I was like, I need something. I think a lot of people can relate that year. And there was a woman, Virginia STR is her name. But I, she was like on Twitter. And this was, this was around the time that Twitter was like really big on Like helping, excuse me, black scientists.
Mm-hmm in general. And so she offered to like, help you make a website, if that's something that you wanted to do. And so I just like randomly Deinter was like, Hey, I I'm thinking about doing this, but I don't know if I have enough stuff to put on a website. And she was like, everybody has enough stuff to put on a website.
And so I made it and she like reviewed it and helped me but I think, I think the biggest advice for a lot of people really is just to like, get started just to like have that page because I, I do feel like, and I totally understand, like putting yourself out there, like that feels weird. Yeah, but also I think the value in having an online presence, especially for graduate students, like when you're going to look for jobs or postdocs or whatever is next, you want someone to be able to.
Google you when something comes up. Sure. And then I think in terms of using social media for, for my brand, at least I'm like really active on Twitter, but I use it for fun and also to promote science and my friends. And I actually joke all of the time. Anytime. I actually tweet about science. Like the science that I'm doing, it gets like three likes.
But anytime I just like tell a funny joke or like relive my experience of, of like breaking something in lab or like dancing in lab and singing in lab, it gets like thousands of likes and I'm like, I'm not really sure what I'm doing here, but I think that there's a way to carve out a niche for yourself.
Right? Like I have some friends who are very much. Science communicators. Like they talk about their science in such enriching in wonderful ways. And, but yeah, I feel like the hardest thing is really just to get started just to like put yourself out there a little bit, an interesting kind of thing I think about when, when you mention that disparity between the likes on something personal versus science is I think that, I think there's a lot of, I think talk is building a lot more around communicating science.
In a layman way. Yeah. So that the general public can understand it, particularly because there has been such a backlash against science in general, climate pandemic, name it, you know? Right. Yeah. And so I, I think you inadvertently make a, a very unique point or not a unique point, but a, a very important point there.
I think it'll become increasingly important for scientists to gain that skill and being able to. Either in an eye catching way or a funny way, or simply a simple way of communicating science to individuals. So that they'll consume it online because that's just where we're at people. Aren't reading research papers.
Yeah. And it's hard to like, I, I think that sometimes people underestimate how difficult it is to like communicate. What you do to the public? Like I work with molecules. Like I I'll joke with my family that I just pour clear liquids into slightly colored liquids for a living . But I, I remember I was at a conference pre pandemic and there was a workshop posted by the Allen Alda Institute where it, it basically combined Improv with like science communication.
And at it, it was in New York city. And so they went and got like three random people off the New York city sidewalk and brought them in. And we had to like explain to them as scientists, what we do. And it was hilarious because we were all so bad at it, but it was fantastic. Yeah. And I think like those exercises are really, they're really powerful.
when I talk about like my research, I just assume everyone has some sort of baseline knowledge and, and they don't and that's okay. Cause I've been studying this thing for like what feels like a decade, so yeah. Yeah. It shows you it shows you the danger in communicating in, when you use either jargon for acronyms or, you know, all those things that you may work with all the time.
We actually just hired a new employee in our office and we have a lot of acronyms for events and programs. And, and she's like, can you please explain that to me what that is? And so it's, you know, that can be prevalent, I think in almost any career. Yeah. Like if you have. Career specific acronyms in particular, people were like, mm-hmm it's right over their heads.
All right, I'm gonna we're coming to a close here. So to wrap up again, I ask all of my guests the same question. What single piece of advice do you find to be most important for young girls or women as they consider a career in science and or medicine? Yeah, I think I have two yeah, that, I think the first is probably the most important, which is just like to happy, thin.
The number of times that I wanted to quit graduate school that I wanted to sort of give up on science is like countless. I can't even the number of times I've cried on a lab floor in my lab is too many. Yeah. But. A lot of it was because I felt like I was constantly having to prove myself and I didn't have a lot of faith that I could do this thing that I, I very clearly like Excel at and I'm good at.
And I attribute a lot of that to going from that sort of all women's environment of doing science to like the more stereotypical quintessential, like male dominated field. Yeah. But my biggest, my biggest. To everyone is to like have faith in yourself. And if you don't have faith, find someone, I don't care if it's your mentor.
I don't care if it's your mom. If it's, if it's a lady that works in the building a janitorial staff, like somebody finds someone and they will have faith in you and you can borrow some of their faith while you build up your confidence. I love that. And then I think the second piece of advice is I guess in line with that really, to bet on yourself, like you, like, you have some faith that you can do it because you can.
And I, I say all of the time, like to my students, I, there were very few moments in my career where I knew what I was doing. I just really went with the flow and if I can do it, if like me, a girl from suburban Georgia can make it on to Forbes 30, under 30. So can you. So, yeah, absolutely. Well I've so enjoyed our time today.
Thank you so much for joining me on the Women in Science and Medicine podcast today. Dr. Singleton, it's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. It's been great.