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Biology Overview 

Judy Brusslan

California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, CA


PhD, University of Chicago
Judy Brusslan's job combines teaching, so that she has a broad perspective on biology, with research that keeps her more focused on her particular research area.
"Stay strong in math and biology!"

What fields of biology do you work in?
Brusslan: Plant Molecular Biology plus a side project on stingray population genetics.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a Biologist?
Brusslan: Third grade; I had a giant insect collection and spent all my free time catching bugs, identifying them and displaying them in cigar boxes.

Q: What was your college experience like?
Brusslan: I was a Biology major at Middlebury College. I loved my senior year when I started focusing on Molecular Biology and worked in a microbiology research lab. 

Q: Did you incorporate work experiences while you were an undergrad?
Brusslan: I worked 10 hours per week at the college cafeteria…not a huge demand as some students carry today.

Q: How did you get your first job?
Brusslan: I was a technician in New York City after college. First I went to NYC, and applied everywhere, but no luck. Then a dad of a friend from colleged knew someone…and that is how I got an interview and my first technician job at NYU.

Q: What's the most rewarding thing about being a Biologist?
Brusslan: I continue to learn and to share my knowledge. 

Q: Is there an example you can provide that shows how something you've worked on has positively impacted the world?
Brusslan: To be honest, the teaching aspect of my job has the biggest impact on the world. Students come back to me many years later to thank me for for motivating them.

Q: Do you spend a fair amount of time traveling?
Brusslan: Not too bad, about 3-4 times per year.

Q: Do you have a mentor? Or did you in your college years?
Brusslan: My post-doc advisor, Elaine Tobin, was a caring mentor during my post-doc years. Currently, my Department Chair is helpful. In college, my undergrad research advisor played a mentoring role, urging me to go to graduate school.

Q: Do you find yourself working more in a team situation, or more alone?
Brusslan: I like to work on my own to figure things out, but I also like to consult with others, so I can't really give an absolute answer to this question.

Q: Do you find you are able to balance work with social/family life while working in your current job?
Brusslan: Yep, husband and two daughters are a big priority. I even have some friends who are not scientists and on occasion I read novels.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still become a Biologist?
Brusslan: Yes, Absolutely!!!

Q: Did you think that school prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Brusslan: School and post-doc were preparation, but multi-tasking is always a challenge that really is not taught in school.

Q: Where do you see jobs for Biologists in the future? What should students be doing to prepare themselves to take on those roles?
Brusslan: Mathematics….learn computer science!

Q: What other advice do you have for precollege students?
Brusslan: Stay strong in math and biology!


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