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Full Interview: Jackie Bray

Since I was a child I have had an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, especially as it related to the biology of the species around me.” – Jackie Bray

Jackie Bray

Where are you from originally? I’m a Cincinnatian through and through. I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital and have lived here all my life.

What is your job title? I’m an Associate Director with RAPTOR, Inc. I have also work as a trainer with the Wings of Wonder Bird Show at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. I also help manage the Kea Encounter exhibit at the zoo.

Are you working towards one specific goal? I hope to have a significant positive, long-lasting impact on avian wildlife conservation.

Why did you choose to go into this career field? Because I fell in love with wildlife, especially avian species, and realized how important they are to our Earth and our continued healthy existence. I also realized I could make a positive difference in this world while engaging in activities I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s personally fulfilling.

What’s the coolest thing you have done at your job? What’s your favorite thing about your job? My job is cool every day. I especially like developing a trusting relationship with the education birds and learning to understand the ways in which they communicate with us. I love treating an injured or ill bird and returning it back to the wild. I also like meeting interesting people who share my passion for avian wildlife.

If a girl was interested in a career such as yours, what does she need to know? What tips/suggestions would you share? Spend time volunteering and talking to others who work in the field. It’s important to understand what you’re actually getting into. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. I spend a lot more time cleaning enclosures and cutting up dead mice than I do handling a bird on the glove.

Did you know anyone with this job before you decided on this career path? No. I started on this career path by visiting the zoo and falling in love with the birds. I ended up signing up and working as a volunteer, then enrolling in the Miami University graduate degree program that was being conducted on zoo grounds. I served an internship with the Bird Show and was offered a paid position afterwards. My kea conservation work began as part of my master’s degree requirements. My raptor rehabilitation work began after meeting some highly skilled and passionate rehabilitators doing great conservation work in our local Cincinnati community.

Why do you think young women should study science? Because women have just as much to contribute to any field of study as any man. The more scientists we have working to further our understanding of our world, the better.  I think the sex of the researcher is irrelevant.

Did you encounter any struggles on your path to this job? Yes. There are many people who want to work with animals and are willing to do the work for little or no money, so it is challenging to secure a well-paid position. This is a highly competitive field that most people choose to fulfill their passion, not their wallets.

What do you still want to study/work on? Raptor rehabilitation, non-profit management, grant writing, expanding my conservation impact.

Where did you go to school (high school and college)? My son likes to tease me about being a permanent student. I graduated from Milford High School where I studied general college-prep courses. I attended Bowling Green State University and Northern Kentucky University where I studied nursing but didn’t finish the degree. Instead, I completed the paramedic program at the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated class valedictorian. After working several years as a paramedic and 911 dispatcher, I went back to school to study education.

I completed an Associate of Arts degree at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College focusing on the general education requirements for a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree (graduated Summa Cum Laude). I then transferred to Northern Kentucky University and completed a BA in Middle Grades Education with minors in English and Mathematics (graduated Summa Cum Laude). I later completed a Master of Arts in Zoology degree from Miami University in partnership with Project Dragonfly and the Cincinnati Zoo.

How long did you need to go to school? I consider myself a lifelong learner. As opportunities arose, I tried to make the most of them. I believe formal education is very important, but I also believe it’s important to seek out opportunities to gain practical experience, such as volunteer opportunities, internships, etc. My conservation work is not directly dependent on a college degree, but it does require a highly educated person with advanced skills in oral and written communication, research, science, etc.  These skills are most often obtained in pursuit of a college degree.

Besides going to school/college, did you have to do anything else to prep for your career? In addition to the things discussed above, I also stay up to date by reading published materials in my field and I attend conferences and workshops when possible.

Who is your favorite female scientist? Dr. Terri Roth, VP of Conservation and Science and Director of the Lindner Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. Terri’s work with Sumatran rhinos and other endangered species is legendary. She is a highly respected principal researcher in reproductive biology that focuses her talents on the preservation of endangered wildlife.

What do you do for fun? I like to take short, interesting online classes or attend workshops and conferences to satisfy my curiosity and to increase my abilities. Most importantly, I like to spend my time volunteering on projects that benefit avian species, especially the kea parrot from New Zealand and raptor species (birds of prey) native to our local Cincinnati area.

What is your first memory of science, either by reading, lecture, observation, etc.? My first memory of science was reading through my parents’ Emergency Medical Technician manuals. When I was young, both of my parents were very active with our local volunteer ambulance service and fire department. I knew a lot more about where babies actually came from than my fellow elementary school classmates! My oldest sister and I followed in their footsteps. My sister has made a very successful lifelong career out of it.

Did you always like science? Yes, but I didn’t see it as science when I was younger. I was just interested in the complexity of life and how cells, organs and systems worked together to create a living organism. As I got older, I gained a greater appreciation for the elegance and complexity of nature in general.

What do you enjoy about science? My favorite thing about science is that there is always more to learn. Each answer we discover gives rise to 10 more questions. Engaging in scientific inquiry gives me great personal satisfaction and, hopefully, will contribute in a positive way to our understanding of our world.

Is anyone from your family in a field of science? My sister, Rita Burroughs, is a firefighter/paramedic captain. Her career requires her to have great understanding in many scientific fields, such as biology, medicine, fire science, physics, psychology, engineering, etc.  Science is everywhere so fields that you might not consider science-related probably require scientific knowledge. Every person should have a strong science background to be a well-rounded, educated, contributing member of society.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? Align yourself with respectable, like-minded individuals and organizations. Develop your character and guard your reputation. Explore a wide variety of interests and discover what you are passionate about, then find a way to make a living doing what you love. Give back to your community and use your time on Earth to make a positive and meaningful contribution.

Morgan Lynch: Full Interview


What do you do for fun? I recently became a mom to a little girl in January 2015.  Besides being a mom, my husband and I love to travel, fish, hike and camp all over the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado. When I can, I will go to a good music concert or Denver Broncos game with my friends.

What is your first memory of science, either by reading, lecture, observation, etc.? When I was a child, I used to love to borrow books from the library. I stumbled upon books that had instructions for “do it yourself” science experiments. After that, I could not get enough. 

Did you always like science? Yes (and math).

What do you enjoy about science? The problem solving aspect, identifying a problem and trying to resolve with a hands on approach.

Is anyone from your family in a field of science? No.

Did you know anyone with this job before you decided on this career path? No.

Where did you go to school? Bennett High School in Colorado and Colorado State University.

What was your major? Civil Engineering.

How long did you need to go to school for your position as an engineer? 4 years.

Besides going to school/college did you have to do anything else to prep for your career/volunteer position? I had an internship with a Drainage District in Denver that helped guide me towards my specialization within Civil Engineering.

What is your job/volunteer title? Project Manager – Water Resources.

How long have you done this job? 10 years.

What is a typical day like for someone with your job? I manage a team of engineers and other specialists. In a typical day, we will have project meeting to coordinate on the goals and deliverables.  I will communicate with our client to make sure their problems are getting solved and check to make sure everything is technically correct.

Are you working towards one specific goal? I help identify flood risks throughout the State of Colorado.

What do you still want to study/work on? I would love to work on a dam removal project to help restore some of our channels and open them back up to fish migration.

Why did you choose to go into this career field? My love for streams and rivers helped guide me to studying open-channel hydraulics. 

What’s the coolest thing you have done at your job? After a large flood event hit Colorado in 2013, I had the opportunity to work with a team of professionals to reevaluate what probability storm even occurred and help identify risks for people in the future as it relates to flooding.

What’s your favorite thing about your job? Working as a team.

If a girl was interested in a career (or volunteer work) such as yours, what does she need to know? Never give up, it is 90% drive and 10% smarts.

Why do you think young women should study science? Our world is faced with many problems that need to be solved. The only way to do that is through science.

Who is your favorite female scientist? Marie Curie. 

Any words of encouragement you would like to share with the GIRLS participants? Never give up, it is 90% drive and 10% smarts.

Full Interview: Twila Moon



Name?  Twila Moon 

Where were you born? Colorado Springs, CO

Where do you currently live? Big Sky, Montana  

What is the highest degree you obtained? PhD

Where did you go to school? Stanford – B.S. University of Washington – M.S. and Ph.D.

What were your favorite classes in school? Art and science have always been the top of my list, though I love school in general. In middle school I skipped 7th grade, but I had to take both 7th and 8th grade science that year. I loved that! I think art is a great compliment to science and really enjoyed classes from painting to printmaking to ceramics.

What kinds of challenges did you overcome during your education? I was really lucky to have fantastic education opportunities through the public school system and then support from my parents to go to college at Stanford. I was made fun of some in middle school when I skipped a grade, but I focused on hanging out with other fun people and paying attention to school.

Who do you work for right now? Univ. of Colorado, soon University of Oregon

What’s you official title? Postdoctoral Fellow: Glaciologist (study glaciers and ice), Scientist

What is your role in the organization? Analyzing science data and publishing papers. Making scientific discoveries!

Describe your work environment. Mostly I work at my home office, which has all the normal items. However, I collaborate with and visit scientists all over. I’m regularly emailing or Skyping with other people. My science community is excellent and supportive. Also, I love the independence of my job.

Describe a typical day in your job. Most days are spent on my computer. I look at satellite images of the Greenland or Antarctic Ice Sheets, work on analyzing data, and usually work on writing or editing a science paper. Sometimes there’s a meeting, lecture to listen to or a short teaching/outreach event that I’m participating in.

Describe an atypical (but notable) day in your job. Occasionally I get to travel to do fieldwork. In Greenland, we often stay in a small town on the west coast (Illulisat), which has more sled dogs than people and a great view of Jakobshavn Fjord, which has many icebergs. A typical day there is: After breakfast, drive out to the little airport. Cross your fingers that the weather is good and load science equipment and yourselves into a helicopter. Fly out the field sites on the ice sheet and check instruments, download data, etc. If there’s extra fuel, we might take an extra swing around the iceberg-choked fjord where the ice sheet and ocean meet. Dinner might be reindeer or halibut.

How is the work you do important to society? The Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets are losing ice and are main contributors to sea level rise, which is felt around the world. I work to understand how quickly the ice sheets are changing and how the ice interacts with the ocean and atmosphere. The better we can understand these processes, the more skill we might have at predicting future sea level rise. The ice sheets also contribute significant freshwater to the ocean. Understanding how quickly the ice sheets lose ice (which melts to become freshwater) can help us understand potential impacts for ocean circulation and biology too.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your current role? Published a paper as the cover article in Science, was on National Public Radio, received graduate and postgraduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation, made great strides in learning more about the range and variability of glacier behavior across the whole Greenland Ice Sheet.

What projects or goals are you currently pursuing? Right now I’m starting some new work looking at ice motion in the Antarctic Peninsula. I’m also continuing work around the Greenland Ice Sheet and working to publish papers on this research.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your work? 1) Doing science can be difficult. It requires learning new things and thinking creatively. This can be very challenging (but also one of my favorite parts). 2) Another challenge is finding funding to pay for the science. There are many interesting, important science studies that folks would like to do and not all of it can be funded right now, so it’s hard work to get support.

 What was your biggest career “break” or notable moment? I got into graduate school but then deferred for a year so that I could ski bum and play in the outdoors. Lucky for me, during that year my now advisor, Ian Joughin, arrived at UW. I was his first student and worked with him for my MS and PhD. He was an amazing advisor and really helped me to realize my potential.

Why did you agree to become a STEM Role Model? I think we need as many women STEM role models as we can get. Science sometimes gets a bad rap for being dorky/boring/too hard/straight edged. I want to be an example of someone having a great time, who’s also fun and outgoing (hey, I’ve got a nose ring and a tattoo, and my picture was in Powder magazine – I don’t even own a white lab coat)!

What advice would you give a student interested in pursuing your career? Be curious. Pay attention to what excites you the most. Find people who are doing what you envision for yourself and ask them what they did to get there. Science, math, and computer skills are important – do well in those classes. And don’t be intimidated. These are not innate skills – it takes hard work to learn them, but you can do it! Don’t be afraid to try things – there’s nothing wrong with not getting it right the first (or fifth) time.

What are some interesting places you’ve traveled for your career? Nepal, Greenland, Norway, New Zealand, Alaska, British Virgin Islands.

What question should we have asked you but didn’t? Do you heat your house with a wood burning stove and eat elk stew from an animal your husband shot with a bow and arrow while simultaneously doing cutting edge research with terabytes of data and high speed internet? Yes, I do just that when I’m working from home in Montana! Modern world meets Montana mountain living. 

Full Interview with Dr. Grace Smith



-What do you do for fun? I enjoy fly-fishing, photography, running/cycling, meeting friends for fun.

-Did you always like science? Yes. It made sense to me.

-What do you enjoy about science? It is quantifiable and logical.

-Is anyone from your family in a field of science? My father, and two sisters are also physicians.

-Did you know anyone with this job before you decided on this career path? I think I was mostly influenced by my father and older sister  (both physicians). I also had mentors along the way that helped me decide on this career path


-Where did you go to school (HS and college)? Grosse Pointe (Michigan) South High School, a public high school. Then University of Michigan for undergraduate and medical school.

-What was your major? I did a combined premed-medical school track that condensed everything into 6 years.

-How long did you need to go to school for your position as a doctor? I trained for a total of 15 years AFTER high school. Yes, I really liked school.

-Besides going to school/college did you have to do anything else to prep for your career/volunteer position? Yes. I did research during the summer, shadowed established professors or doctors, and volunteered in local community hospitals during high school. I also worked part time in the public library during high school, a job I loved.


-What is your job title? Director, Pediatric Cardiology Mahoning Valley, Akron Children’s Hospital Heart Center

-How long have you done this job?  I have been in this job for 13 years.

-What is a typical day like for someone with your job? I start seeing patients at my office around 8AM and finish by 4PM. Some days, I do procedures in the Heart catheterization laboratory at the children’s hospital.

-Are you working towards one specific goal? I am trying to find why children born with heart disease also have problems with learning. Also, school can be very difficult for them, and they find it hard to fit in with others.

-How will what you’re doing affect people? I hope my work will make the life of a child with heart disease better

-What do you still want to study/work on? In science, there is always new things being discovered in the field, so there is constant homework that I make myself do. We have to do presentations to our partners or a larger audience regarding various scientific topics we are interested in.

-Why did you choose to go into this career field? I love being able to help babies and children. It is very satisfying to me to see them get better.

-Has your job taken you any place interesting? I have traveled to Hong Kong to give a scientific presentation. Also, Denver, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle.

-What’s the coolest thing you have done at your job? Being able to save a baby’s life

-What’s your favorite thing about your job? Mentoring medical students and teaching them how to listen to the heart.

-If a girl was interested in a career such as yours, what does she need to know? You need to be prepared to go to school for a long time:  4 years college, then 4 years medical school. This is followed by 3 years of pediatric training, then 3-4 more years of specialized pediatric cardiology training. So you must be patient, you must  be able to teach yourself. If a girl wants to go into this career path, it may mean delaying getting married and having a family. It is a career that demands a lot from you, as a scientist, a teacher, and advocate for the children you take care of. 

Being a G.I.R.L.S.

-Why do you think young women should study science? I think more people should study science, but girls are under represented, perhaps because some have the misconception that they are not “smart enough.”  NOT true.  Science requires a natural curiosity about our world, and self-discipline to be in it for the long run.

-Did you encounter any struggles on your path to this job?  The long training process was a challenge.

-Who is your favorite female scientist? Marie Curie


-Any words of encouragement you would like to share with the GIRLS participants?

  1. Believe in yourself. Be brave.
  2. Be in it for the long run. Achieving great things doesn’t come from going the easy path.
  3. Speak up when you don’t understand something. Don’t think you are “dumber” than the person next to you.
  4. Work really, really hard. This will get you far in life.
  5. Learn to talk to people. Look them in the eye. You will make a big impression with good social skills.
  6. Show kindness even when others don’t deserve it.