This week’s Scientist Spotlight features Lyra Morina, a Post-Baccalaureate Fellow in Immunology in Washington, D.C. Our Scientist Spotlight series features STEM professionals who volunteer in our pen pal program, Letters to a Pre-Scientist.
Lyra hopes to become a physician-scientist, working with patients and also in a lab, by earning an MD-PhD. In the mean time, she is a busy bee outside work and likes hiking, photography, singing, journaling, and blogging in her free time. She also enjoys exploring new cities, especially restaurants and cafés with friends.
What is something everyone gets wrong about your job or line of work?
Everyone thinks biology research is all about looking at cells under the microscope but so many amazing new techniques have been developed in the last few decades that most of my work is actually done using a very fancy machine called a flow cytometer. It still helps me look at cells and study what proteins they make but it is very different from a normal microscope because it flashes lasers of different colors as the cells flow past and detects what color the cells glow.
What is the best or coolest part about your job? What keeps you excited about your work?
The coolest part about my job is that there is always something new to learn and explore and the more I learn, based on what scientists have discovered in the past, the more ideas I have to test my current hypotheses. I am always excited to try out new experiments and see what I can learn about the system at hand. I also love how collaborative scientific research is because it really helps to talk about problems with others when experiments don’t work or when the data is difficult to interpret. I have learned so much from the scientists around me that have more experience and training and that is part of how we become better scientists throughout our careers.
What is the number one key to success in your field?
Perseverance. There is lots of failure in science especially when troubleshooting experiments but even when the protocol works sometimes we just don’t see a conclusive pattern. It’s difficult making conclusions about what is going on in our cells at such a microscopic, molecular scale therefore we have to use technology and logical reasoning. I maintain my optimism by marveling at all the incredible things that have been discovered so far, the stories I have heard over the years about how crucial phenomena were stumbled upon accidentally. But it’s so important to remember those “accidents” came from years of doing research and scientists following their curiosity, knowing that one day it might lead to something great. Consistently doing something will make you better at it and more likely to succeed, and that’s the key to success in science.
Why do you participate in LPS? Why is outreach important to you?
Scientific outreach is important to me because science is the basis for so many every-day life phenomena and it is valuable for non-scientists to understand what is going on. Not only is it helpful when it applies to people understanding their own bodies and health but also for appreciating the beauty of the world.
I also think the path towards becoming a scientist is not described much so I have made a conscious effort to share my journey through an Instagram blog @mdeephdee as well as through mentoring college and high school students on a one-on-one basis. I especially shed light on the path towards becoming a physician scientist by obtaining a Medical Degree and PhD since I had never heard of it growing up.
When I heard about LPS I was thrilled to have the opportunity to extend my efforts to exchanging letters with a younger student. Within LPS my intentions remain the same, to celebrate the world of science by expressing new discoveries in ways that are easy to understand while also sharing my journey and getting to inspire and motivate younger generations along the way.