Anna Chlebowski is an NIEHS training grant PhD candidate in Robert Tanguay's and Staci Simonich's laboratory.
When did you decide to become a scientist? During my childhood I was always interested in the outdoors and science, and went through a phase where I wanted to be a paleontologist. Once I started taking science classes and science electives in high school, my interest in the sciences continued and grew. My high school chemistry teacher was very influential, and led to my interest in chemistry. I was further able to refine my interest in analytical chemistry and toxicology through summer internships during my undergraduate degree, which allowed me to experience research beyond what was offered at my undergraduate university.
Why did you choose Oregon State University to pursue your PhD? A big factor was that I wanted to stay on the west coast. Of the universities on the west coast with toxicology programs, Oregon State had the strongest analytical/environmental chemistry research. The diversity of other research within the department, including the zebrafish facilities, was also important.
Research focus in Toxicology: I work in Staci Simonich and Robert Tanguay’s labs, so my research is split between environmental chemistry and developmental toxicology. I research PAH derivatives, particularly nitrated PAHs. Specifically, I look for these compounds in the environment, and am investigating their developmental toxicity and mechanism of action using the zebrafish model.
What is a typical day for you? First thing in the morning I work out, which is a great way to de-stress before the day even starts. My time is split between the two labs, depending on the specific project I am working on. I like doing bench work, but also do lots of data analysis, and spend a lot of time looking at a computer screen.
What advice do you have for new students? Take time out of the day that is dedicated to your mental and emotional health, whether it is exercising or art or whatever makes you happy and relaxed. Try to take as many of your classes as possible at the start of your grad school career, so that you are not trying to schedule your research around your classes later. Have some idea of where you want to go with your research and career, but don’t narrow your focus down too much. Take advantage of new opportunities, like research rotations, which allow you to experience what is like to work in a lab, as well as to learn new skills. And wherever you are and whatever you are doing, make sure it is somewhere you can be happy for the entirety of your grad school career.
What is next for you? I would like to do a post-doc after graduating, before finding a more permanent job. I am currently leaning away from becoming a professor, and would prefer to focus more on research. I would prefer to find a career path that uses both environmental chemistry and developmental toxicology.