To mark Women in Science Day on February 11, 2021, we’re sharing the stories of female scientists, past and present, at the MDI Biological Laboratory.
Olivia Aries: Making Her Own Path
The global pandemic has upended all aspects of life, and millions of college students have had their education disrupted, deferred, or differ drastically from what they expected.
Faced with a year of classes entirely online, college sophomore Olivia Aries chose to carve her own path. She is currently half-way through an academic year placement in the Drummond Lab at MDI Biological Laboratory, working with the new African Turquoise Killifish model introduced at MDIBL in 2020.
“My classes for the year were mostly meant to be lab-based. I knew I didn’t want to do them online, but I also didn’t want to have a year without lab work either,” Olivia explains. “I reached out to Dr. Drummond to see if there was any way he might have a spot for me in his lab and now I’m spending a year doing research – which is exactly what I was hoping my gap year would be.”
This isn’t Olivia’s first time at MDIBL; she spent three weeks in the Haller Lab as a high school senior, helping to breed transgenic Zebrafish. That, she says, is where her love of science was cemented: “Being in a lab just felt right and it triggered my desire to focus on science as a career path.” Olivia is on track to graduate from Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in neuroscience, in 2024.
For now, she’s enjoying the experience of being in a real-world lab. “In a classroom lab, we’re all doing the same step-by-step protocols and all hoping for the same answer,” Olivia says. “But in the Drummond lab now, we don’t always know what the outcome might be – or how it might affect what I’ll do next. That uncertainty is exciting.”
The pandemic led to Olivia creating her own path for her education – but it is clear, with the determination and drive she’s demonstrated, that she is sure to go far.