Photo:

Kate Clancy

Missing my scientist comrades, but hoping for more changes to chat or answer questions. Let's have a conversation, students!

Favourite Thing: I love to learn unexpected things about how the human body works!

My CV

School:

I was in the Brockton Massachusetts public school system through high school (1997).

University:

I went to Harvard College from 1997-2001 and majored in Biological Anthropology and Women’s Studies, and Yale University for my PhD in Anthropology from 2001-2007.

Work History:

I have worked in a bake shop, as a resident advisor for a high school summer program at Harvard, as a labor union organizer, as a lecturer at Yale, and as a preceptor at the Harvard Writing Program.

Employer:

The University of Illinois.

Current Job:

I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology.

Me and my work

I am a mother, an athlete and a scientist who studies women’s health and behavior – I like to say that I study all things “ladybusiness” but you can read more here: http://bit.ly/mbDN67.

I study women’s reproductive health, so mostly I study the ovaries and uterus. I am interested in how our lifestyles and environment impact reproductive health. I also look at how our behavior and reproductive health impact each other, especially around hormones. I think the hormone levels of young adults are understudied and would like to see more people look at that. For more on my take on why science is so important, read this blog post, or check out my whole blog, Context and Variation. Lots of fun stuff, and not just for girls – I cover evolutionary psychology quite a bit.

Because I am an anthropologist, I am interested in how reproduction and hormones vary based on what population you are in. So I do my fieldwork in rural, southern Poland. Here’s a picture of the Polish countryside where I work:

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There, people live a very traditional, agricultural lifestyle and still get most of their food from their own fields and gardens. They work very hard in the summers which brings down their hormone levels, but also decreases their cancer risk. By working in a more traditional environment, I can compare my results to studies of humans in urban environments, like London or Chicago.

Here are a few other images from the field, so you can see scientists in action! The first is me and my field assistant traveling to the home of a subject to collect samples (yes, we walked everywhere and yes, we often had to go over bridges, past attack dogs and attack turkeys, and through fields that made me sneeze). The second picture is the whole field team after climbing Mogielica Mountain, the nearby mountain where all the locals go to pick blueberries and have festivals.

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Also, you may be wondering what I mean by “samples.” In addition to doing ultrasounds to look at the uterus, I ask women to spit and pee for me — really! And as you can see from the pic below, they are happy to oblige:

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My Typical Day

I meet with my students, prepare to teach, teach, interact with my students and fellow scientists on and offline, and try to get some quiet time to analyze data and write papers.

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Now, you got the one sentence description of my life as an anthropologist. But what you also need to know is that I have an alter-ego… the Anthrobrawlogist! I play roller derby, which is a full contact women’s sport on roller skates. So after I put in a full morning and afternoon working on issues in women’s health, feed my daughter dinner, play with her, and put her to bed, I put on my roller skates and skate around with a group of very cool women late into the night. The picture you see here is with my daughter at one of our Saturday practices. I think it’s fun to be a very physically active person, since a large part of my research focuses on the impact of physical activity on hormones and health.

What I'd do with the money

I would use the money to create a campaign to help young people communicate with each other about their bodies and how they work.

What better way to do my science than by giving people a chance to share their stories of how their bodies work and how they vary? One of the coolest things about the human body is that it is responsive to our environment — where we grew up, how much food we eat, how much we move around, even whether we are an older or younger sister or brother! So our shape, size, hormone levels, everything varies because of it. Yet we all seem to think that we need to fit into some narrow interpretation of normal to be okay. I’d like to give young people a chance to share a bit about their lives and how they vary. Maybe then we can learn about how normal it really is to be different.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

feisty, strong, loving

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Lady Gaga, Kate Nash, Adele, and the Frames.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Gone swimming with wild dolphins in Hawaii.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I would wish that my daughter would have a happy life, that I had all the research money I would ever need to do my work, and that I had more hours in the day so I could read more books, eat more chocolate, and spend more time with my family

What did you want to be after you left school?

I wanted to be a novelist, a neuroscientist or a track and field athlete.

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

In preschool through about fourth grade, I got in trouble all the time. My teachers had a little book where they would report to my parents whether I had been naughty. And trust me, I was very naughty! I didn’t do my work and would read my own books at the back of the class, and I would yell at boys at recess.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

The best thing I’ve done is drawn attention to important issues in women’s health. I’d like to think that more people are trying to understand how to change some of the bias in the study of women, how the uterus works, and how adolescent hormone levels vary because of the work of me and my colleagues.

Tell us a joke.

Have you ever been to the circus? It’s in TENTS!