I Heart My Science Career! An Interview with a Biomedical Researcher

By Kathy Reeves
10 May, 2017


Many young people love animals. Over the years a high percentage of my students expressed an interest in becoming a veterinarian, a marine biologist, or a wildlife specialist. Today’s interview with a scientist shows us that there are other opportunities for animal lovers. Kelsey Quinn, Ph.D., is conducting biomedical research that helps us understand early pregnancy loss in livestock as well as in humans.

SM What is your current job title and where do you work?

KQ Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, School of Medicine 

SM Tell us a little bit about your childhood.

KQ I grew up in a small town (about 3,100 people) in Washington with numerous outdoor activities. One of these activities was raising and showing animals at our local fair. At a young age I loved animals, and I always thought that the best career choice for me would be to become a veterinarian. In elementary through high school I showed animals at the fair and participated in Future Farmers of America (FFA). When I graduated high school, I decided to attend University of Idaho and study animal science. Towards the end of my degree, I began working in a dairy science nutrition laboratory and volunteering in an animal reproductive biology laboratory. I had the opportunity to not only work with animals, but also conduct research that would benefit them. This initial laboratory experience sparked my interest in other animal-related careers, and I decided to continue my education in animal science research.

SM What is your education background? What degree(s) or training did you receive?

KQ I received my Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and then went on to receive my Masters (M.S.) and Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Animal Science with a minor in Molecular Cell Biology. During my M.S. and Ph.D., I studied signaling factors that played a role in communication between the mother and baby during pregnancy.

SM What inspired you to choose your college major?

KQ I always had an interest in animals and knew when I graduated high school that I wanted to continue this passion by better understanding how to help them.

SM What has been your career path since you completed your degree (first degree if more than one)?

KQ After completing my Ph.D., I wanted to expand my knowledge related to early pregnancy loss, not only in livestock, but in humans as well. This is what led me to my current position as a postdoctoral researcher. By being involved in biomedical research, I can take this knowledge and not only make a difference in human lives, but potentially animal lives too. 

SM Have you made any changes in your original career path? If so, why?

KQ Yes! When I was young I wanted to be a veterinarian because I thought it was the only job where I could work with and help animals. After attending college and learning about animal science I realized there were so many other career opportunities available where I still had the opportunity to work with animals! 

SM How did you find your current job? What job-hunting resources did you use?

KQ I found my current job through a career posting society notification. I would recommend becoming a society member related to your career interests. For example, my current and past memberships include Graduate Women in Science, American Society of Animal Science, and the Society for the Study of Reproduction. These societies and others provide great networking opportunities and resources for future careers. American Society of Animal Science also has a membership for junior animal scientists (tailored for kids ages 5-9) that’s a great resource for animal science facts and animal science related careers.    

SM Describe a typical day at work.

KQ I usually never have a “typical” work day. It is constantly changing based on my discoveries and new experiments I need to conduct. I usually start work at 9 am beginning with analyzing data and seeing if I find anything interesting from my experiments. If I do have exciting results, I then decide what experiments should be run next. Throughout my workday, I do quite a bit of sitting at the benchtop running experiments, but depending on the day, I may also look through a microscope at tissue expressing a specific protein, work with animals or work with live cells.

SM What parts of your job do you enjoy the most?

KQ I love making new discoveries and solving how those discoveries can benefit animals or humans. It is so rewarding being able to contribute to new knowledge in science.  

SM What parts of your job do you enjoy the least?

KQ I love every part of my job, but sometimes my experiments have a foul odor from the chemicals I use, so I guess that would be my least favorite part!  

SM What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

KQ I love swimming and teaching kids how to swim. I’ve also been a swim instructor and swimming coach for about 10 years now!

SM What career advice do you think high schools and colleges should be giving students?

KQ I think too often many students are not as familiar with industry versus academic-related careers. Giving more advice related to the difference and requirements between these two career choices would be beneficial. With social media becoming popular now, I think it is also important to advise high schoolers and college students on how they can use social media to their advantage or disadvantage (ie: watch what you post online). Social media can be a great networking tool, but it can also hinder you in your future career prospects if not used appropriately. 

SM What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome in receiving your degree(s) and pursuing your career path?

KQ A huge obstacle was attending school for so long (about 9 years). It was also tough being away from family and friends and putting my education first. In the long run though it paid off and was completely worth it!  

SM At the end of the day, what gives you a feeling of satisfaction concerning your job?

KQ I love the fact that I am contributing to the future of science. It is extremely gratifying knowing that the pregnancy-related discoveries I make today could benefit the lives of future mothers and babies.

SM What advice do you have for students considering a career in the sciences?

KQ There are so many different career choices in science! Become involved early in volunteering and internships related to your areas of interest. Taking the time to volunteer and do internships can potentially be a great networking tool to land a career later. While finishing your Bachelors of Science, also research careers that interest you. Often you can start in an entry level position in a company with just a Bachelors and then work your way up. By starting a career right after your Bachelors, you can gain additional experience in the company rather than spending time in graduate school. After gaining hands-on experience, there is always the option to go back to graduate school later. Be open to career choices outside of your comfort zone. By starting in one career, this could potentially lead to a career in your area of choice down the road.      

Is there a science career you would like to learn more about? Leave us a comment, and we'll plan an interview!

The "I Heart My Science Career" Blog Goals – To highlight someone working in a science-related field so that students may learn the following:

1. There are abundant and diverse career opportunities that are not typically presented to them as science careers.

2. People just like them, with similar backgrounds, are working in these jobs.

3. Careers often take exciting paths that couldn’t have been predicted when choosing a science major or graduating with a specific degree in science. The world of science is ever-changing, and so are jobs that involve science.


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