What obstacles have you overcome in your career journey?
I was born and raised in Hawaiʻi and there is only research-focused university in my state. In order to attain my dream of becoming a college professor at the University of Hawaiʻi, I was told that I should go away for school. I was away from home for 17 years (first college, then my graduate studies, then my post-graduate studies). My children were born while I was away from Hawaiʻi and it was incredibly difficult being so far away from our family and our culture. When I finally was offered a job at UH, I moved home with my children but my husband had to stay in California for work. It has been about 3.5 years since I moved home. Even though I have my dream job and my children are able to spend lots of time with our family members and be immersed in their Native Hawaiian culture, it’s still very hard sometimes because my husband and I are still apart. One of the challenges of being a scientist is having to move around. It can be an adventure, but there are also sacrifices.
What do you enjoy the most about your STEM career/field?
What I enjoy most about being a microbiologist is that bacteria always surprise me. They are capable of such amazing biology and chemistry. They have evolved this flexibility in order to make our world habitable and I believe that studying them will help us find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing our society today and in the future.
What is your chosen STEM field?
I am a microbiologist studying how bacteria influence the behavior of other organisms. The bacteria I study usually come from coastal habitats.
Why did you choose this field?
When I was in college, I learned that bacteria are the most ancient life forms on our planet. I learned that they are more than just dangerous pathogens – most are very useful. Microbes are responsible for driving nutrient cycles and helping organisms develop and maintain their health. I knew then that I wanted to study how microbes interact with larger organisms (like plants and animals) and determine all the ways we might depend on bacteria.