There’s nothing but a positive reaction to this chemist!
Devin Swiner is an analytical chemist with an interest in mass spectrometry! Devin is passionate about STEM representation and uses #MacScientists to help mentor others.
Devin earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently pursuing her PhD from The Ohio State University in Analytical Chemistry.
Devin is currently co-organizing #BlackInChem, a movement to support and amplify Black chemists. From August 10-15, #BlackInChem has developed programming and hashtags to highlight the experiences and research of Black chemists.
#BlackinChem has even caught the attention of quite a few celebrities already, including MC Hammer and Michael B. Jordan!
How did you get into STEM?
I have always thought science was cool for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I had multiple science experiments and I even won a science fair in middle school. Science and math have always been my favorite subjects and since high school I have been in love with chemistry. I really enjoy being in a lab setting. The thing I tell people often is that chemistry is like a puzzle and each experiment, the pieces. The more experiments you do, the more of the picture you uncover.
What does the average day in your field look like for you?
I am entering my fifth and final year of graduate school, so my days fluctuate. A productive day would start around 8:00/8:30 am, after breakfast of course, and I would start planning out the things I need to get done for the day. If it is a data collection day, I would work 8 am – 12 pm in the lab before coming home for lunch and then some form of preliminary data analysis. If I am not going into lab, my day would start around 9 am and I would work up some data, write, and/or send a million emails for the million other things I am involved in. I also try to carve out time daily to work on content for #MacScientist, a blog I co-run with other Black women in STEM. That could look like writing my posts, creating/scheduling the graphics, and even engaging with our followers on Instagram. Other than that, my days are a little slower now that COVID has hit.
Who inspires you in STEM?
My academic advisor at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Reña Robinson (she is now at Vanderbilt), was a huge inspiration for me during my time there. It was very comforting seeing someone that looked like me in my department. She took the time to get to know me and my interests and was instrumental in getting me to seriously consider, and get into, graduate school. I could never thank her enough. I also must shoutout my good friend, Sierra Jackson! Sierra has been my rock since starting grad school at Ohio State. We are in the same lab and I could not have asked for a better person to be with me on my journey. We hold each other accountable, have laughed, cried, and been stressed out together and she really is an amazing person. She really speaks into my life when I need it most and she has helped me grow both as a scientist but also as a person.
How would you describe your research interests?
I love science that not only helps people, but that is accessible to a wide range of people. I am an analytical chemist that is working on developing a method for clinical diagnostics using mass spectrometry. I enjoy the fact that the work I have been doing, and want to continue to do, could have lasting impacts on drug screening, environmental studies, and even disease biomarker detection work.
How did you and your cofounders create MacScientists?
My friend, Carrie, and I were at the movies watching Hidden Figures and the entire time I was planning #MacScientist in my head. I told her that I wanted to create a platform for Black women in STEM to be candid about their journeys, in hopes that it inspires the next generation of Black women. It is always important to me to give back. I know what it is like to not see yourself in your field when you are starting out, so I wanted #MacScientist to bridge that gap for those coming up.
How has organizing for #BlackinChem been?
It has been busy but so fulfilling! That is the best way I can describe it. I have enjoyed getting to know the other co-organizers and developing new relationships with people that I may have never met otherwise. I am truly excited about the week of events coming up, starting on August 10th. I just hope everyone else in the Twittersphere enjoys the week as much as we will.
What’s been your most exciting experience in STEM?
I am torn between my first oral presentation and my first, first author publication being accepted. Both I love for slightly different reasons. With my first talk, I was proud of myself for getting up in front of a room full of people and talking about my science, INCLUDING being able to answer the questions thrown at me. But with my first publication? That was special because it showed my contributions to my field. Getting proofs back for a publication is a feeling I cannot quite put into words.
What’s something about your field that you wish others knew about?
Chemistry is broad, and I think people outside of the field do not realize that. Not all chemists are in lab making materials. It is also extremely intersectional. Chemistry is present in everyday life, whether it is 100% obvious or not, but that is what I love about it the most.
What was your path towards pursuing a PhD like?
Getting a PhD has been a ride! There are good days and bad days, honestly. It is one of those things that looks different for each person you talk to, but it is a lot of work. Some days I love it, but I would be lying if I said I do not regret it sometimes too. I try to always come back to my love for my research and the community I have built during my journey. I am close to the finish line now, so I will have to report back with my feelings about it being done.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
A piece of advice that has really stuck with me, from Sierra actually, is to find your “Why”. She said this years ago and it is now advice I lead with when talking to others. This is so important because graduate school IS hard and it IS challenging, in ways you cannot imagine, but you need a point to anchor to. You need to find your one piece of motivation that can help you when times get rough. Dig deep and ask yourself why you want a PhD and go from there.