Dr. Lisa Reynolds
UVic Women in Science presents an interview series highlighting women in the scientific community on Vancouver Island. Dr. Lisa Reynolds is an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at UVic. Her work focuses on helminth parasitic worms and bacterial microbes that live in the intestinal tracts of mammals. She is interested in how they influence immune system development and how they can contribute to and modulate our susceptibility and predisposition to diseases.
What is your field of study and what stage of your education/career are you at? I work at the interface of immunology, microbiology, and parasitology. I have recently started an Assistant Professor position at UVic.
When did you first become excited about science? I have enjoyed science since I was really young. I went to lots of outdoor and wildlife clubs as a young kid. I had a very inspiring biology teacher in high school, which I think really swayed my interests towards biology.
How did you get to the position you are in today? Was it a straightforward career trajectory? I’ve had an fairly straightforward career trajectory. During my undergrad, I did a one-year research rotation (it is kind of similar to the Co-op program offered at UVic) that got me set on a career in research. After that, I did my Ph.D., then my Post-Doc, and then I applied for my current job.
Describe your research focus.I work on helminth parasitic worms and bacterial microbes that live in the intestinal tracts of mammals. I’m interested in how they influence immune system development and how they can contribute to and modulate our susceptibility and predisposition to diseases.
What do you enjoy about this field/your work? I enjoy so many things about my work! I love the freedom that I have to pursue things I find interesting, as well as the ability to work and collaborate with people from all over the world. One of the best parts of my work is being able to share my enthusiasm for science with other people.
What do you think about mentorship? Have you had any strong mentors during your career? And do you think it’s an important component of professional development? Mentorship is absolutely critical to not only career development but personal development. I’ve had a number of very strong mentors that have helped shape my career path over the years. My Ph.D. supervisor was phenomenal. Throughout my Ph.D., and even to this day, I’ve found him to be a huge part of my support system through his unwavering encouragement. During my post-doc I had a senior female mentor who was also a significant part of my career development. She was actually the one who encouraged me to apply for faculty positions when I didn’t believe I was ready. Mentorship is really essential in the fact that it not only increases your scientific network, but it also encourages you to grow.
How do you balance your hectic work schedule with your life? That is always a challenge because there is always more to do at work. I’ve found that I just have to be strict with scheduling in my life and that I always make sure that I have time for myself and my friends and family.
Imposter syndrome (phenomenon) is quite prevalent in female scientists. Is this something you’ve observed during your career? What do you think we can do to counter it? Imposter syndrome is definitely something I have experienced. Doubting yourself is a very common trait amongst scientists because we are trained to always question everything, so often I think that we can extend this doubt to questioning to ourselves and our own abilities. I personally try to identify specific areas that I’m worried about and use it as a tool to improve my skills in that area. I think that the traits that make you experience impostor syndrome are actually those that also make you a good scientist!
What has been your greatest accomplishment in your career? My greatest accomplishment in my career to date is probably finding this job! I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to set up my lab at such a fabulous city.
What are you still hoping to accomplish? I am only just beginning my independent research career, and so I hope to accomplish much more! Specifically, I would like to work towards identifying the immune pathways that parasites and microbiota use to affect disease development and potentially use the products of these organisms for therapies.
How do you contribute to supporting female scientists that are following the same path as you? I think supporting female scientists who are following the same path as you is one of the most important things you can do as a mentor. I like to make sure that I am introducing them to people that are already in my network to help expand their own network, and I always try to provide encouragement when needed
What programs/events would you see as being most useful for women in science here at UVic? The UVic Women in Science STEM Research Symposium was really cool! It was great to get a community of people in science all supporting each other and making connections outside of our immediate research area. I like that the networking events aren’t necessarily science related (the monthly meetups) because they present a friendly forum where people can discuss ideas, their lives, and their research interests. The themes for the monthly meetups, as it is a good way of encouraging ice-breaking activities
What advice would you give to students and young females interested in science? Try and get as much practical experience as possible! Taking part in things like the Co-op program or any volunteer opportunities is great for yourself and your CV. Keep being enthusiastic and interested in science because we always need those people in all areas of research