Last year, we spoke to Amber, a Master's student at Michigan State University studying the potential effect emerging and endemic fish pathogens have on Great Lakes lake sturgeon populations.

1. Introduce yourself, who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Amber Johnston and I’m a Masters student at Michigan State University studying the potential effect emerging and endemic fish pathogens have on Great Lakes lake sturgeon populations.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

I grew up in Michigan, and with that I inherently developed a love for the Great Lakes. My first time boating in the Great Lakes basin was Memorial Day weekend of 1997, I was born May 9th of 1997. It’s something I’ve been around my whole life, and while I navigated most of my undergraduate degree with the intention of pursuing veterinary medicine, upon getting a job as an intern at the Michigan State University Aquatic Animal Health Lab I quickly realized that working with freshwater fish was something I had a deep rooted passion for!

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

I get excited to go to work because every day feels like a new adventure. Whether I’m working to maintain cell cultures, caring for fish, or out in the field sampling for my graduate research I couldn’t imagine being in any other program right now!

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a story?

I’ve come to find solace in baking. Throughout some of my most challenging times as an undergrad, something about baking always helped me clear my head. In fact, during one of my roughest months I’m fairly certain I averaged 2 loaves of banana bread a week. Not only does the baking itself help me navigate a clouded head, I’ve also always loved bringing baked goods into the office and seeing others get joy out of something I made! It’s a win win for me, and is also a very affordable habit! 

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I would consider my parents as my role models, with the caveat that they've been character role models, not career role models. I've never had a career role model, maybe I'll find one someday, but right now I think I'm focusing on navigating my career path based entirely on what I feel will make me happy, not what I'm seeing others do!

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

I would tell myself to listen a bit more to my heart. I was a very type-A person, and it wasn't until college when I began to navigate life with a little more emphasis on doing what I wanted, and not what I felt like I had to do.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  • Cultivate confidence!

  • Find something that helps you decompress! When I feel myself getting run down I do my best to quickly give myself the time needed to decompress. Whether its standing up from my desk and getting a drink of water, baking a loaf of banana bread, or playing with my cats for a bit. Find your “thing” that helps you navigate stressful situations. It will help you so much down the line!

  • Recognize that being a girl in STEM is something to be proud of, not something to be timid about. You are a powerful mind and you are capable of achieving so much!

8. How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by how much happiness I find in what I'm doing. If I'm working my dream job and am loving most days at work, I would consider myself successful. Even now as I'm pursuing a graduate degree in a field I love, I consider that a huge success.

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

Since I’m in the early phase of my masters I haven’t had any recent publications, but I’m incredibly open to talking about my research with those that reach out! Fish health is a very exciting and widely overlooked field, I consider myself very lucky to have found a field I feel so passionate about and will happily share that passion with anyone else interested! My Twitter is below!

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

I’m social most on Twitter and my handle is @ajohnstonFW!