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Meet a Scientist: Daniel Wilson and Sara McClelland
Dec 12

Meet a Scientist: Daniel Wilson and Sara McClelland

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Manager

All of the researchers featured on Phipps' Meet a Scientist Saturdays have been trained through our science communication workshops. If you are graduate student, faculty, or professional in any field of STEM and you are interested in the workshop or participating in a Meet a Scientist Saturday, check out our website or contact Phipps’ Science Education Outreach Manager Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas.

This Saturday at Phipps, come chat with two local researchers for our monthly Meet a Scientist! Whether you’re interested in components of cells that are even too small for the average microscope or you are fascinated by the outdoor world, you will enjoy meeting Daniel Wilson of Carnegie Mellon University and Sara McClelland of Duquesne University—both Ph.D. students in their respective fields. Get to know the two of them in their interviews below, and be sure to stop by the Tropical Forest this Saturday, December 15, from 1:30-3:30 pm!

Welcome! Introduce yourself in five sentences or less.

Daniel: My name is Daniel Wilson. I am a 4th year biology Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University. I study how cells make the complex structures that they use to make the proteins we all need to live. My work lays the foundational knowledge we need to advance treatment of a variety of diseases.

Sara: Hi, my name is Sara McClelland and I’m a biology PhD student at Duquesne University.  I love hiking, playing in streams and looking for animals, and believe it’s up to all of us to keep the environment healthy. I’m interested in understanding how the choices we make impact the environment, so that we can try to find ways to have less of a negative impact on the planet. This has led into my current PhD research, which is analyzing how pesticides affect the development, physiology, and behavior of tadpoles and frogs. 

Why did you become a scientist?

Sara: I decided to become a scientist because I’m curious about the way the world works, and science gives us a way to answer our questions about the world.

Daniel: I became a scientist because we have to understand how the world works in order to make it better and science is the best method we can use to understand how things work. 

What is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done at work?

Daniel: I think the most exciting thing I've experienced at work is the feeling of being the only one in the world to know something after an experiment that helped me discover something, even if it's a tiny detail in my project. 

Sara: I think the most exciting thing I’ve ever done is that I got to work on a team to necropsy a gray whale.  Necropsies are like autopsies only for animals, and often times when marine mammals that have died wash ashore, scientists perform necropsies to try to figure out a cause of death.   I found this to be particularly exciting because gray whales are extremely large – they can measure over 46 feet long and weigh over 30 tons!

What skills do you use in your job?

Sara: I think the most important skill I have is being a hard worked. Science consists of a lot of tough jobs like carrying buckets of water for cleaning aquaria and tromping through swamps looking for frogs, so it takes a lot of hard to work to persist.

Daniel: In the lab I use a lot of critical thinking, planning, and technical skills. Solving science problems also involves a lot of creativity. My favorite part of my job is sharing my work with others. 

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

Daniel: If I were not a scientist, I would be a chef. It's a lot like working in a lab, but you don't have to wait as long to enjoy your results. 

Sara: If I weren’t a scientist, I might be working as a movie theatre manager. I worked at a movie theatre through college and loved it there!

Why is science education important?

Sara: The most pressing issues that face us today rely on scientists doing research to find the answers to our problems or cures to our diseases.  In order for these findings to have the most impact in society, people need to trust science. However, I don’t think people can really trust science unless they understand how science proceeds and what exactly scientists are doing to come to their conclusions.

Daniel: Science is responsible for so many monumental achievements that have made life better for everyone, so understanding the importance of science through educating and sharing stories is one of the best ways we can continue to make life changing discoveries.

Be sure to stop by and get to know these 'Burgh scientists in the Tropical Forest this Saturday, December 15, from 1:30-3:30 pm!