Its time again for this month's STEM Star feature! This month's theme is Chemistry and the awesome scientist is Andrea Hadjikyriacou. Andrea's work focuses on the area of science called biochemistry. Her research focuses on the biochemical characterization of protein arginine methyltransferases. In addition to her research, she runs a blog and Instagram called PhD Fashionista which works to show that scientists can be fashionable too. Want to find out more about her work, fashion and her area of science? Read on below and look out for her feature in our March Sci Chic Kids and Sci Chic Monthly subscription boxes!
1. Can you describe what a biochemist studies and what you do on a daily basis?
A biochemist studies science at the intersection between biology and chemistry - we study the chemistry of biology, and apply chemistry techniques to study proteins, amino acids, and modifications of these proteins. On a daily basis, I come to the lab, organize my list of things to do, and start my experiments. My experiments vary day to day, but usually I am running around the lab running samples to analyze individual modified amino acids, purifying proteins, setting up reactions, and checking on my living organism model, the worm C. elegans!
2. When did you first find you had an interest in science?
I remember being excited about science as a kid, playing in the back yard, mixing rocks, sand and dirt, pretending I was a scientist making a magical concoction. In science class, I was always mesmerized and looked forward to getting new science books and textbooks - science was my favorite class!
3. What are some new developments in biochemistry that you are excited about?
I am really excited to see what amazing things we can accomplish with CRISPR technology. We have only seen the peak of its power, and I can't wait to see how we can utilize this amazing technology to really revolutionize how we approach problems, and more importantly disease models to find cures.
4. What is your favorite project you have gotten to work on during your career?
I think being able to learn to work with different systems and organisms has been really cool to think back on. In undergrad, I worked with biosynthetic pathways in two different types of plants. During my graduate career I worked with human cancer cells, bacterial cells, and microscopic living worms! It's been really interesting and a great learning experience to be able to manipulate different systems and really understand the questions we are asking from different perspectives and systems!
5. What advice would you give to young kids interested in STEM? Where could they go to learn more about your field?
Always ask questions, always be curious, and don't be scared if you don't understand something initially. Talk to your science teachers, look up things online and always read. As scientists we are always asking and exploring questions. You can learn more about biochemistry by looking up cool websites that explain the chemistry of biology - the chemistry of living things! There are a lot of experiments you can try out at home with parents, and also understand/realize which things you use every day that contain biochemistry - for example, baking bread with yeast! There's so much information out there, attend workshops, ask your teachers to focus on certain topics, and again, always ask questions! I started with general chemistry classes and as my understanding got better, I slowly moved into the biology of it all!
6. Why did you start PhD Fashionista and what have you learned during the process?
I started PhD Fashionista as a way to show others that scientists can be fashionable too. I routinely share my outfits I wear to the lab, weekend outfits, conference outfits and tips, and also share lifestyle and fitness things, in addition to common grad school struggles. I am trying to break the stereotype that scientists are only white old men in labcoats, or are awkward nerds that can't be talked to. Scientists come from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, hobbies, interests, you name it! Just because you are interested in science doesn't mean you can't also have other interests and goals! I learned that there are so many different people that do research from all over the world, and it is awesome to be able to connect with them on common grounds like fashion, makeup, music, fitness, and other hobbies! Having a blog is a lot of hard work and dedication, but I am proud I started it, as it has given me a creative outlet to turn to when I need a break from the science!
You can find Andrea online on her website: www.phdfashionista.com. Also find her on social media: