Courtney is currently a PhD candidate in Ron Vale's lab at the University of California, San Francisco. She is combining both structural and cell biological approaches to study the dynein complex, a molecular motor responsible for cell division and cargo transport.
Every scientist has had "that" conversation: the casual conversation with family members or friends that inevitably ends with eyes glazed over because of the seemingly esoteric and incomprehensible nature of what you do in the lab. Explaining your research can be challenging. The disconnect that follows these conversations with family and friends can be easily glossed over, but it is actually quite telling of the severe communication gap that is growing between scientists and the general public. COMPASS, ASCB's Committee for Postdocs and Students, has set a priority on efforts to close this gap.
It can be flattering or terrifying but it's always important. It's that rare opportunity when a non-scientist is genuinely curious about what you do. It's your chance to talk about the puzzling result that keeps you up at night, the critical piece of data you finally got, or the little pieces of a microscopic mystery that you're working to solve.
When I first heard of the ASCB Celldance contest, I thought it might involve an interpretative dance, so I steered clear of it. But it's actually a great chance for grad students and post-docs to make use of their beautiful scientific movies for cash prizes, and the guidelines are extremely simple. Any ASCB member can submit their very own movies (4 minutes max) that illustrate a cellular process in an educational way.
I successfully designed my spaceship to blast oncoming meteors out of the way, when I realized that my code was sick. I was taking "An Introduction to Python" online through Coursera (described below). The course was offered from Rice University and it consisted of about four 10- to 15-minute video lectures each week with two quizzes and a mini-project due every Saturday. The mini-project was especially challenging; the assignment was to program a game, and as the course progressed, the games became harder. The final exam was to program a version of Asteroids—complete with a moving spaceship that could fire at rocks and make them explode.