Dr. Tracy Livingston is an associate professor of Biology at Georgetown College in Kentucky. She got a B.S in Biology and M.S in Developmental Biology from the University of Kentucky and got her Ph.D. in Developmental Biology from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Livingston knew she wanted to pursue Developmental Biology after meeting one of her mentors at UK, John Just, who she continued to work with through her master’s degree. “John Just was working with frogs and tadpoles and he showed me a tadpole that was huge because they took out the thyroid hormone, which I thought was really interesting,” Dr. Livingston said. This led her to pursue graduate school, where she worked with embryos of frogs, fish and salamanders.
With her master’s degree, Dr. Livingston began teaching at small community colleges, but a different career path eventually caught her eye. “I was reading a biology book in the late 90’s, when CSI was just getting started,” Dr. Livingston said. “Forensic chemistry sounded like a really neat career, so I started applying to jobs and I got a job at Charleston Police Department in South Carolina.” Dr. Livingston worked in this lab for four years, met her current husband, and decided to pursue her Ph.D. at University of Tennessee. At UT, Dr. Livingston helped with many research projects, one including dairy cow cloning. “Cloning makes me excited but hesitant,” Dr. Livingston said. “You can’t take one step forward with cloning without keeping the ethics alongside.”
Dr. Livingston has also conducted a lot of research at her current teaching job at Georgetown. She set up a cell culture lab working with HeLa cells to study implantation, worked with fish embryos for Developmental Biology lab, and studied regeneration in fish. Dr. Livingston also has offered a Women in Science Seminar to discuss women’s issues and women in the STEM field. “I am fortunate enough to never have been in a position where my job depended on me being discriminated against,” Dr. Livingston said.
Dr. Livingston’s accredits much of her strength and inspiration that she shares with many younger women to her mom, who was a strong role-model within her life and career. “My mom worked in a man’s world,” Dr. Livingston said. “She had an industry job where she was a supervisor over many men and she experienced discrimination. She instilled in me a confidence and an attitude to not put up with discrimination.” Dr. Livingston has worked at Georgetown College for fifteen years now and is a role-model and mentor for many students in the STEM field. Her words of wisdom are important for all students, no matter what field they are pursuing: “You have to think for yourself to see what all is out there,” Dr. Livingston said. “Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. However far you want to go, you should go.”
Jessica Kendrick is a senior at Georgetown College majoring in psychology, biology, and chemistry. In high school, Jess was in a biomedical science program and was actually able to do research through her school where she absolutely fell in love with it. This program is what stemmed her love for the sciences and made her want to pursue a career in research. Coming into college, she told her advisor that she was considering double majoring in chemistry and biology. Jess is someone who loves to learn. Her reasoning for this double major is because she loves biology, but thought chemistry challenged her more, so she wanted to pursue both. Her advisor warned her that this might not be a good idea, but that didn’t stop Jessica. Not only did she finish both majors, she managed to squeeze another one in there as well.
The psychology interest came from her time studying at Oxford University in London, England. Through Georgetown, Jessica was able to study a trimester of psychology at the Regent’s Park College of Oxford University and she felt it was important, as someone whose career is to make sick patients feel better, to also study and have a deeper understanding of the behavior of those people.
Throughout out her time in college, Jessica has had several opportunities to do research. Every year, the chemistry department at Georgetown College picks one student to do research at the National Institute of Health during the summer, and Jessica was nominated by her professors her junior year. This allowed her to do pharmacology research at NIH in Washington, D.C. this past summer. She also did genome research with a few professors at Georgetown College. She loved both of these experiences immensely.
Jessica is planning to join a post baccalaureate program after undergraduate school with the goal of then doing an MD/PhD program. As a doctor, she would love to be a medical scientist. She would love to see patients and then cater her research to what is relevant to the patients she is seeing. This summer, she has accepted a job working at the same lab when she was at NIH at the National Cancer Institute.
Luckily, as a woman in the STEM field, Jess has not experienced much discrimination. Her biggest word of advice, “…to not let people tear you down.” She was told that she shouldn’t double major, and in May she will be graduating with three majors! “Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something because you never know where your own willpower and determination will get you in life!”
Dr. Rebecca Singer is an associate professor of psychology at Georgetown College. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mary Washington College in Virginia. Between graduation and choosing to go back to graduate school, she worked in Hawaii to pursue her love of marine biology where she could help train dolphins in the University of Hawaii Psychology Animal Lab. After working there for roughly a year and afterwards various animal related jobs, she saw the need to go back to school to obtain her masters and eventually doctorate. While in graduate school at the University of Kentucky, it was brought to her attention that she operated well in the classroom.
“I’m definitely an overachiever, and I only had to take a couple extra classes to become certified as a teacher. I went ahead and did it because at the time it was much easier for me to get a job as a teacher than in my specific research field.” She absolutely loves her job as a professor at Georgetown College because she sees the potential in her students, the many research opportunities and inspiration it has given her, and she hopes to be a positive model to help mold her students into who they are meant to become.
She credits much of her research opportunities to the small campus and large network that Georgetown College has given her, especially a project she recently presented in Chicago with her colleague Dr. Susan Bell.
She also has an ongoing project studying object permanence in various marine mammals, dolphins in particular. This research has been drawing data over the past five years from facilities in the Bahamas, the Netherlands, and Spain.
Although she agrees that more people are needed in the research fields, she says the root of the issue is in a lack of funding. When asked if she thinks more people should pursue a career in research she said, “I think there needs to be more funding first. If we get more people, the already scarce funding becomes even more spread out. I don’t disagree with that statement, but we need more funding to come back for the research which will then allow more people to go into the field.”
Dr. Singer is very aware of the gender bias that occurs in the field. She considers herself very blessed during graduate school because her advisor was a very respected presence in the field, and she was able to graduate with her name on numerous publications. She had the most trouble as the leader for her research abroad. “I was pretty protected because my advisor was such a big name but heard of a lot of problems from other labs. I was made a very wise decision in choosing my advisor…I felt like I had more of a problem in the field than in grad school. There was never an overt sexism; it was more of an element of surprise that I was in charge and people not wanting to listen. But I tried not to let it affect my work. I tried to not let gender differences affect the goal of the research, especially in other countries with different cultures.
“It’s hard being a woman in the field. Men are far more likely to be published. We [women] are less likely to be listened to in committees and our ideas are more likely to be dismissed. Why do I have to defend my research? Why do I have to defend everything because I am a female? It’s hard.”
Her final advice to women in STEM is to have thick skin. “Work the system the best that you can. Do it with integrity, honesty, and persevere. Be open to the unexpected. Just because your original plan doesn’t work out, doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. None of my original plans for my career actually happened, yet I love my job and all that has brought me here.”
Campus Representative: Mary Lou Loxley