Wonderful Woman – Kelsey

Meet Kelsey, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University (Joint program). She is from New Jersey but recently moved to North Carolina. She is enthusiastic, strong-willed, & a social butterfly and this is her story as a Ph.D. Student.



Q: What is your title, what do you do?

A: My first title is a PhD focused Graduate student. I am studying for my PhD in Biomedical Engineering and I have just completed my first year of classes. My other official title is Research Assistant in a Coherence Imaging Laboratory. I use biomedical optical imaging to study biological substances. My research focuses on understanding pulmonary diseases such as cystic fibrosis and COPD.

Q: How did you get into the business you are in today?

A: During my undergraduate career at Drew University I was lucky enough to work in a Biomedical Optics Lab under Dr. Bjorg Larson. I used many credit hours for research and worked in the lab during Drew Summer Science Institute, a two-month long program in the summer to focus on research. I decided I wanted to go for my PhD over a Masters because I found research more interesting than classes and there are great funding opportunities for various interesting projects.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced & overcame?

A: The biggest challenge I had to face is deciding the person I wanted to be during this chapter of my life. Throughout my college career, I was in a bad situation socially and I lost a large chunk of myself over four years. I found it hard to concentrate in class and difficult to enjoy my hobby – Fencing. I not only had to fight against the negative vibes people would send me but also the negative thoughts I told myself. Graduating college gave me the opportunity to start in a fresh environment and work towards being the best Kelsey I could be! I began by working on positive thoughts about myself by thinking of one positive thought a day, each time adding on to the last. Then I looked for new hobbies that required physical and mental stimulation. I picked up Rock Climbing and daily Yoga (which does WONDERS for anxiety – check out Leslie Fightmaster on youtube) and I try to read a new book on the bus each month. Although I’m already very busy with graduate school life these things keep my life in routine and the negative thoughts away more often, leaving room for positive ones!

Q: What is your work motto?

A: When it comes to life and work balance is KEY! I already see some students burning out already by the end of their first year because they do not allocate enough time to a healthy lifestyle.

Q: What’s the best advice to give someone who is interested in physics?

A: READ THE TEXTBOOK. It may seem boring at first, but there is so much to learn that a professor can not always cover in class. And always remember that Physics is difficult, NOT impossible to learn. There are so many youtube videos explaining concepts and ideas too.

Q: What do you like most about physics?

A: I like that physics can be applied to anything. The way that a physics degree makes you think is a powerful tool. I know that I can apply the skill set I’ve learned to different subjects and professional fields and be successful as long as I’m willing to work at it.

Q: What would you want to tell your 15-year-old self?

A: The adult world isn’t that scary. It is hard but it is also very fun. Stop holding back and be confident in who you are. Don’t be afraid to make new friends or try new things. Be the friend to others that you would want for yourself.

Oh, and do not give yourself that haircut.

Q: What does girl power mean to you?

A: Girl power means everything to me. Girl power means being independent and ignoring when people try to bring you down by calling you bossy. It means being confident and standing tall when someone tells you to sit back down, but owning when you are wrong. As I become an adult (slowly working on it, that is) I see how much harder woman have to fight to break through stereotypes. If a man is treating you poorly in any situation do not be afraid to stand up for yourself or another woman, even if you know that will affect your reputation. Girls have to stick up for each other, that’s where half of girl power comes from!

Q: Anything else you want me to me add or mention?

A: Sometimes it’s hard to see when your girl power is being challenged and diminished in a relationship. If you think you or a friend could be in this kind of situation there are some great resources through the One Love Foundation.


And that’s this week’s, Wonderful Woman!

Thank you, Kelsey, for being YOU & inspiring others with your words of wisdom!


Tory Lava

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