Hi, I'm Claire! Welcome to the first ErlenmeyHer blog post!
ErlenmeyHer is a monthly blog created to tell the stories of everyday women navigating the world of science. Here, I will explore the journeys, hardships, and successes of women in all scientific disciplines. For each post, I will interview a different woman in science and tell her story.
But before I share other's stories, let me tell you a little about myself and why I started this blog in the first place.
My name is Claire Smathers and I am a PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at West Virginia University. When I started my PhD program in August of 2017, I had aspirations of becoming a National Institutes of Health-funded principal investigator at an R1 university. The path to this career seemed relatively simple: 1) Get my Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Check! 2) Get my PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from West Virginia University. On my way! 3) Complete post-doctoral training at a prestigious university, such as Harvard, for example. And finally, 4) Start my new position as a tenure-track faculty member at an R1 university doing research that I am passionate about.
Fast forward about one and a half years. I had completed my first year of course work with a 4.0 GPA and had joined the laboratory of Dr. Aaron Robart, a new faculty member interested in catalytic DNA and RNA. Everything was going according to my plan, but as I performed research and learned more about what a career as a principal investigator in academia would be like, I realized that perhaps it wasn't for me. I briefly considered quitting my PhD program, but ultimately decided that I wanted to finish and knew that a PhD would still benefit me down the road. I spent the next few years performing research in the lab, writing papers and grants, and trying to decide what I ultimately wanted to do. Eventually, it came to me. I realized that I actually found writing papers and making figures much more fulfilling than performing research. But I still enjoyed learning and talking about science. It seemed that a career in science writing may be what I was looking for!
To further explore if this new path was right for me, I took an internship with a science writer at West Virginia University and talked to recent alumni who had pursued science writing jobs after completion of their PhD. Since starting the internship a few months ago, I have interviewed scientists and written part of an article published in the WVU Magazine. Finding that I enjoyed telling the stories of others, I decided to start writing and sharing about something that I am passionate about: women and equality in science. I hope that this blog is helpful and inspiring for women considering a career in science and perhaps commiserative for women who have struggled to find their place.