PERREAULT Magazine AUG | SEP - Page 81

That first class was almost too much for this eager nerdy young freshman to handle. But when I walked out of the classroom that day, I knew I wanted to be a neuroscientist and I knew I wanted to study brain plasticity.

As an undergraduate, I took several classes with Marian at Berkeley. She is, to this day, the best teacher I have ever had. She had a flair for the dramatic (with her hat box), but what really set her apart as a teacher was her combination of unbounded passion for the material, crystal clear presentation style, and the way she made all the learning in her classroom personal. In neuroanatomy class she told us, “You are going to have your brain for the rest of your lives! Don’t you want to understand it?” Our immediate answer was, “Yes we do!” She also peppered her lectures with personal anecdotes and comments about her passions, including her family, tennis, and other more esoteric topics that fascinated her, like the psychology of hair.

When I joined her lab my senior year at Berkeley, Marian became my scientific advisor as well, encouraging me to follow my passion of science to graduate school.


Marian was not only my science mentor, she was an extraordinary teacher and role model. But what I have come to realize in the years since I graduated from college is that one of the biggest lessons I learned from her didn’t reveal itself until long after I graduated.

The first inkling of this lesson came when I was a graduate student and I started to hear complaints from fellow

female graduate students that there were just not enough women role models. This was typically followed by comments about how difficult it was to succeed in science as a woman. I remember thinking, “I don’t’ know what they are talking about—of course women can make it in science!” I was oblivious to their concerns until years later, when I began applying for faculty positions myself and realized how few women there were in the departments I was applying to. It was a depressing realization that while 50% of my graduate class in Neuroscience was women, on average only 28% of the faculty in neuroscience departments are women. It was only then that I realized that I had had the remarkable luxury of having such a prominent female role model in Marian during my formative college days. I had irrefutable evidence that women could indeed make it in science and in a spectacular way. In fact, Marian achieved what I like to call the “trifecta” of an academic life. She had a family (4 kids no less!), a vibrant research program and a remarkable teaching record. To me, she was not an exception. It was clear that a woman could make an impact in science, and I expected the same for myself.


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