Last year, we spoke to Juita, a PhD Student from the USA.

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

Hi everyone, my name is Juita Martinez and I am a 3rd year PhD student. My current research aims to better understand the effects of coastal restoration on Louisiana's brown pelican population. Coastal Louisiana is sometimes known as a “shifting coastline”. This shift is due to erosion, sea-level rise and a decrease in sediment input has led to rapid land loss across the coast. A brown pelican heavily relies on this degrading habitat to raise their young and not much is known about how human influence will change how this use this habitat.

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 always knew I wanted to work with animals but for the majority of my life, I was convinced I was going to be a vet. As an undergraduate, I started as a Zoology major (pre-vet) but during my sophomore year, I was accepted into an NSF REU program which changed my entire career path. From then on, I left any change of being a vet behind and focuses on gaining as much research experience as I could. I also became a tutor and a supplemental instructor at my undergraduate university. I had to find a way to combine both my love for teaching and conducting research which is why I am currently earning my PhD.

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

The thought that maybe I am/can make a difference in closing the gap between how the general public views wildlife and the importance of preserving habitat for them is enough to get me excited for every day in the field. In addition to that I honestly just enjoy what I do every day! I would have never imagined myself in the position that I am in today as a little kid living out my dreams and really working side by side with wildlife.

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

Finding an awesome group of friends is my personal cure to stress. Since I am currently a graduate student most of my friends and I are in the same “grad school boat” which sometimes (most times) can feel like it’s sinking and being able to vent and hang out with people who can relate it the best feeling and makes for a great support system. A more expensive and extensive cure for me is to explore a new place whether that be in a new country or just a new state I find traveling to be the best way for me to reground myself. Even planning my next trip will instantly destress me. So, I just started my last semester of classes and I was feeling extremely overwhelmed – probably because this means I am closer to running out of funding and graduating. I last minute decided to host a game night with my friends, and it was the best idea. For a good 5 hours my brain didn’t have to think about my to-do list or preparing for anything but instead living in the moment. Take a break it will make you a better scientist.

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

I’ve had many role models throughout the years. From an amazing high school biology teacher to fellow students, mentors/scientists and the best bosses I could have ever asked for.

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

I used to be a real pushover and would never go outside of my comfort zone! So, I would tell my younger self to stand up for what you want and take the risks! “Risk is not just part of life. It is life. The place between your comfort zone and your dream is where life takes place. It’s the high anxiety zone but it’s also where you discover who you are.” - Nick Vujicic

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

  1. Experience & who you know matter just as much/more than maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Good grades are important don’t get me wrong, but they are not everything.

  2. Be your own advocate!

  3. STEM isn’t everything & change is okay it means you’re growing

8. How do you measure your success?

I measure my success by accomplishing my goals and by how far I have travelled.

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

You can find updates on my Twitter and IG @juitamartinez and My website: