NAME: Alexia Smith
EDUCATION: B.S. in Chemistry at University of Oregon
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Inorganic medicinal chemistry
CURRENT RESEARCH: I currently study the chemistry behind molecular imaging with lanthanides and radiometals, with the application toward novel cancer imaging and treatment strategies.
FUTURE GOALS: I hope to work in academia one day; I love to teach and mentor, but I also love exploring a problem inside and out, which has drawn me toward chemistry research.
Why did you want to be a part of GWiSE?
Toward the end of my third year as a PhD student, I realized this experience is more than just compiling data and publishing papers, or even meeting the goals set by the program. A PhD really is what I make of it. GWiSE is such a great platform for connecting grad students across multiple disciplines; harboring a sense of community is essential to getting through grad school in one piece.
What/who got you interested in your field?
During my first semester as an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, a grad student lab TA told me there were open positions within the lab they were conducting research and that I may find it interesting. While the chemistry was still very foreign to me, I immediately fell in love with keeping a lab notebook, thinking outside the box, and discussing research with the grad students around me.
When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science/engineering?
Since elementary school I wanted to go into medicine, specifically cardiology. But after starting undergraduate research I realized my skills are better suited to research. I admired and looked up to the PhD students around me and realized quickly that I wanted to pursue a PhD in chemistry. I love that my current research has medicinal chemistry applications, the premises of which strike at the heart of my original career goals.
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science/engineering?
Looking back at my own experience, I wish there had been more information about opportunities at a younger age. As a high-school student, I was completely unaware of the opportunities women in STEM had—honestly, I had no idea what “STEM” even meant. I really wish female faculty and professors, research assistants, CEOs, and every woman in between didn’t shy away from speaking out about the opportunities in their field. We can do so much with a science degree—we can work for the National Institute of Health or advise political parties on health precautions and standards. And women deserve the chance to be that voice. I just wish we spoke out more—and louder.
Name one achievement/award/moment that you are proud of and why:
My first year as a PhD student, I won the “First Year Grad TA” Award through the Chemistry department. I didn’t realize how much I would love teaching, and that first year especially was when I fell into sync with optimizing and customizing the curriculum.
Name one thing you started in the last year that you are glad you did and why:
In the last two years during my PhD, I started to invest in cooking. Prior to grad school, I didn’t spend much time cooking for myself. But I find taking the time to make a delicious and healthy meal really puts my mind at ease at the end of a long day or week.
If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?
In Eugene, Oregon, where I grew up, there are long loops of river paths covered with blackberry bushes. When I was young, my mom, siblings, and I would spend hours biking along the trails, picking ripe blackberries, and eating them by the handful or tossing them on top of creamy French vanilla ice cream. My childhood smell? Blackberry bushes along the river an over ice cream—that distinct odor I couldn’t quite describe any other way.