Chatting with Andrea H

Dr. Andrea H (@phd_fashionista) is the creative director and blogger-in-chief of PhD Fashionista. As a recent PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Andrea started the PhD Fashionista blog to break the stigma that being a scientist = being boring, awkward and ‘nerdy’. The site is now an amazing resource and source of inspiration for women to turn to for fashion tips and tricks for conferences, lab work, everyday work and weekend fashion. And she also throws in some good advice for grad school and lifestyle inspiration.

We caught up with Andrea (not long after her final defence – congratulations, Andrea!) to talk about her academic career and how she combines this with an interest in fashion…

“How did you choose your current path?”

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I started my undergraduate career being undecided about my major, mainly because I had interests in both writing and science – I was editor in chief of my high school newspaper and had a great interest in journalism entering college. I took some writing classes in undergrad, but eventually my science interest took over… I majored and did research in biochemistry and graduated summa cum laude with a minor in psychology. After that I did research on plant metabolism, and was lucky enough to be able to do a summer internship at a biotech company before my final year, which piqued my interest in going to graduate school. I knew I wanted to go into industry and to be able to do that, I knew I needed a PhD. I applied to grad school and got into the UCLA biochemistry and molecular biology PhD program and since then I’ve also been very active in science communication, outreach, student government, advocacy, and more. Having just defended, I’ll be moving on to an industry post doc in the fall!

“Tell us a bit more about your current research pursuits and interests”

Chemistry.gifI just finished my defence on protein arginine methylation and the biochemical and biological characterization of two members of this family of enzymes. My further research interests include figuring out the disease relevance/ impact of these proteins and using this knowledge for the development of inhibitors. Hopefully this will provide new direction for treatment of a variety of diseases.

What inspired you to talk about fashion in the academic world?

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There’s a stigma about scientists being nerdy, unrelatable and kind of weird…

I really wanted to break the stigma about scientists being nerdy, unrelatable, and kind of weird. I also wanted people to realize scientists are just like everyone else, with multiple facets to their personalities and interests. Being a scientist doesn’t 100% define my identity, although it shapes my everyday way of living and thought processes. I wanted people to see scientists as humans and that you can go into science and still be fashionable, cool, and fun. UCLA also came up with really strict rules about what you can and can’t wear to lab classes due to strict safety rules after a lab accident, so I wanted people to realize there is so much you can wear and still be stylish!

How do you bring fashion into your everyday academic life?

FashionistaFor me, accessories are key to adding variation. In addition, styling older pieces in new ways means I can stay within my grad student budget. In terms of working in a lab, there’s so many ways you can still follow the safety rules while looking fashionable. Like wearing comfortable stylish boots or other types of closed toed shoes, and different types of pants like jeans or dress pants. Makeup also helps me add some spice to my looks and helps me feel confident. There’s no one saying you have to wear makeup to be pretty, but it gives me confidence – when I feel good, confident and stylish, I feel like it translates to how I present, how I think, and how I function. Confidence is key!