Ashley Arthur, a sixth-year PhD student in MCDB&G also completed a MS in Computational Biology. Conducting research in a cell biology lab and starting the UMN Chapter of Girls Who Code keeps her busy on campus.
Program & Lab: MCDB&G, Margaret A. Titus
Entered Program: 2014
Hometown: Saukville, Wisconsin
Tell me a little about the Girls Who Code at UMN Club and how you helped to launch it.
When I first started to code, I was so frustrated at first. I knew that, like learning a foreign language, if I had started as a kid it would have been so much easier. With that in mind, I wanted to volunteer to teach young people computer programming. I didn’t find anything in the metro area, so I decided to start a local chapter of Girls Who Code. Through the support of classmates and my computer science professor Dr. Chad Myers, we hosted our first series of classes in 2015.
What did you learn in that leadership role?
I served as the program president for 2.5 years and when I first started I didn’t realize how much work it would be! It was incredibly fulfilling and I made new connections across the University and the metro area. Since I want to stay in academia, it was great to get a better sense of how you go about starting a new program. Meeting with faculty and leaders from across colleges and advocating for funding will help me when I eventually move into a faculty role. That experience is not one that every graduate student gets and I’m glad I experienced it.
What has surprised you most?
You can’t rely solely on hard work and solid experimental design to generate good research. Science is a really creative process. Collaborative work brings inventive ideas about how to tackle a scientific question. My most exciting experiments arise from those moments.
What’s your favorite place on campus to work?
My preferred spot is the microscope room. Ever since my undergraduate days, I’ve been fascinated with live-cell imaging. Imaging and analysis tools keep improving so it’s a fun time to work in cell biology.
Describe the focus of your PhD work.
The lab is interested in how cells move and communicate with each other. Cells in our body need to sense and interact with the environment and some use specialized structures called filopodia to do so. I study how one molecular machine controls their formation.