First-Gen Spotlight: Ashley Albright

Ashley Albright (she/her/hers) is a 6th year PhD student at UC Berkeley whose research interests are centered on regulation of gene expression, scRNA-seq, and early development. If you would like to connect with Ashley, follow her on Twitter @aralbright93!

  1. Where do you call home? In reality I’m from a small community in rural North Carolina, but aside from some family remaining there I don’t feel particularly attached to it. Wherever the people I love are, that’s where I call home.
  2. What is a quote that you live by? “It’s not lazy, it’s efficient”
  3. What do you see yourself doing in the future? I see myself becoming a PI and running a lab in my future.
  4. If you could switch fields/careers, what field/career would you want to work in/have?*  Marine Molecular Biology, I love molecular biology and I think there’s room in marine biology for even more really cool sequencing experiments!
  5. What frustrates you the most about academia? Performative activism and false allyship for sure. I’ve witnessed several faculty claim to be allies and promote their department as inclusive when they themselves bully students, make harmful remarks, and generally do nothing to help our departmental climate. Their version of inclusion is also done by tokenizing the few minorities we do have in our community.
  6. What are three things you can’t live without?* My fiancé Cole, My dog Barney, and southern food
  7. What message do you hope your research conveys to the public? I hope that my research conveys that we need to use modern technology to think about classic biological questions in a different way. Just because something is well established, or some famous scientist said something is true 30 years ago doesn’t mean that we understand everything about our system.
  8. Who do you do this for? I always say never do a PhD unless you’re absolutely certain it’s necessary for your future career goals and you should never feel pressured to do so by someone other than yourself. With that being said, I am doing this for myself but I am deeply inspired by my mom. She didn’t graduate from high school, but eventually got a GED and had me when she just turned 20. She worked really hard while I was growing up to make sure that I knew I could accomplish great things. When I finally left the house and started college in 2011, she started going to college part-time online. I want to show her that her hard work has paid off and then some. I’m happy to say she finished her Bachelor’s a few years after I started grad school and I hope I make her just as proud as I am of her.
  9. What is your proudest moment (so far)?* Of all of the things I’ve done in grad school so far, I am the most proud of myself and four of my friends for receiving a small grant from our university’s confidential sexual violence and harassment resource center to do a study titled, ‘Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Sexual Violence and Harassment in MCB [Molecular and Cell Biology, it’s our department].’ At the end of our study we held a department-wide town hall (over 100 in attendance!) to go over our results and have a discussion about how we are surrounded by wonderful people that believe it’s important to believe survivors, but also feel capable of intervening should they witness something wrong. Our goal was to make people feel more comfortable talking about these issues and more comfortable intervening should the need arise, and we hoped by knowing that we surround ourselves with people that would like to do the same that better behavior becomes the norm. Additionally, we’ve been able to work with other departments to revamp our own mandatory sexual violence and harassment training for incoming first-year graduate students.
  10. What is one piece of advice you would give to other first-gen students? Your community is what you make it! I would encourage everyone to surround themselves with amazing people and do what you can or are comfortable with in order to make your community a better place for others.

*borrowed from the 46 Questions blog!

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