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Modern Educator: Dr. Liz Genné-Bacon

Modern Educator: Dr. Liz Genné-Bacon

3 min read

Liz is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Translational Science Education at Tufts University School of Medicine, where she studies how we can make educational innovations available to a more diverse range of school types. She has a PhD in genetics from Yale University where she studied the effect of stress on obesity and body weight regulation. She lives in Arlington Massachusetts with her wife, Meg, and cat, Dax. In her spare time, she can be found playing Pokemon Go or working on her (fixer-upper) house.

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up? Did you always love science?

I remember when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old my dad (who is a middle school science teacher) told me about the concept of gravity, and how in space you can fly. I loved superheroes and fantasy stuff so the idea that it was actually possible for a human to fly (sort of) blew my little mind. I decided I wanted to be an astronaut so I could fly. I didn’t end up being an astronaut, but it did start me on a life-long love of science.

Tell us a bit about how you started your career and how you landed where you are now.

I sort of accidentally stumbled into my career in science education. Like many PhD students, I went to graduate school thinking I would follow a traditional academic career path and eventually be the Primary Investigator of a lab. However, during grad school I often found myself more interested in my side projects, like my women in science advocacy group, science outreach and communication activities, and teaching. When it came time for me to pick a postdoctoral research lab, I was planning on the traditional research route, but found myself feeling very “blah” about the idea. When I saw an opening for this position researching science education I felt so much more excited. So I decided to go for it, and I’m very glad I did!

What’s your favorite part of what you do?

I have starting wading my way into the confusing seas of qualitative research. It’s out of my comfort zone, but it has some great up sides––one of which is getting to directly talk to my research subjects. It’s really fun and rewarding to interview all these different instructors from all across the country. They all have different backgrounds, different working environments, different resources, but they’re all dedicated to giving their students a great science education. It’s really uplifting.

With a kickass career, how are you thinking about family down the road?

We are definitely thinking about it! Since we can’t have kids the old fashioned way, we’ve got to think through a lot of logistics and finances. Having kids as a gay couple is really expensive! With my wife and I still settling in to our careers, the when and how is still very much up in the air.

How do you think fertility information can empower other women?

Much like education, information is power. The more you know, the better you can plan. I think this is especially important for queer women in same-sex relationships. We can’t easily try every month- you have to procure sperm (which is very expensive), go to the doctor for insemination, and do all these extra steps every time you want to try to make a baby… and, of course, there’s no guarantee that it will work. Adoption is also a long, complicated, and often expensive ordeal, especially for queer couples. The more information you have about your options, the better you can navigate these complicated processes.

What have you done to lift other women up? Have you learned anything that can help?

I like to think that I’ve helped other women. During graduate school I helped run a large near-peer mentoring program for women in STEM fields, and learned a lot about the power of peer or near-peer mentoring. Having another woman or group of women who are there for you, not just for friendship but for career advice, troubleshooting, venting, etc, is invaluable. I have a group of friends/mentors, all women scientists at various career stages, that despite living in different states and different time zones make a point to get together and have a video chat every couple of months. We strategize about our next career moves, talk out problems with co-workers, read each other’s grant applications, strategize work/life balance, all of that. It’s great. Sometimes those kinds of relationships happen organically, but sometimes they need a little push. That’s where mentoring programs can really be of help.

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