Faces of Science: Andreacarola Urso

Andrea Urso in AmorSui Dorothy Hodgkin Top and Rosalind Franklin Pant

AmorSui’s “Faces of Science” Campaign features women scientists with their own unique shapes, sizes, and stories to encourage current women and future generations in STEM fields to feel comfortable in their skin and empowered to discover the next big thing.

Today we're featuring Andreacarola Urso, a 1st year PhD student in molecular pharmacology and therapeutics at Columbia University. Andrea was also styled with AmorSui protective and professional garments that are antimicrobial and fire-resistant, and accessories as a part of our In Her Element shoot to display how women in STEM can be feminine, strong, and confident. Andrea is one half of the brilliant and beautiful duo behind @coatsonheels, a social media initiative to show how women scientists can be feminine and confident. She and her social media partner Ester are currently involved in activities and fundraising for the cause of COVID-19. Read more about why she chose to pursue separate PhD and MD degrees, and how you could contribute towards the fight of COVID-19 from the comfort of your home.

What is your research focus?

Unlike all students in my cohort whose research focus more on drug design and discovery, my study has a heavy clinical focus on pulmonary diseases, particularly in the lung. I explore how infections from bacteria could affect pediatric patients and figure out ways to develop treatment using microbiology.

What attracts you to science and medicine?

It is funny because I didn’t consider myself to be a good student in science when starting out. I have always been good at literature and can speak many different languages. However, my fascination in medicine grew when I was 15 when I found out how much clinical practice can make an impact in patients’ lives. I have been plotting a systematic plan to get into medicine since then.

Andrea in S Dorothy Hodgkin Top and S Rosalind Franklin Pant 2.0

What motivates you to continue to work in science?

I am a very curious person. It is my fascination with medicine and enjoyment in building relationships with people through science that keeps me in the field. I also love the problem-solving aspects of science, putting together pieces from knowledge I’ve acquired to understand diseases characteristics and develop treatments for them.

What is your career aspiration? What do you want to do next?

After completing my PhD, I plan to go to medical school. My career goal is to become a cardiothoracic pediatric surgeon. I want to be in clinical practice, but also manage my own research group. This is why I’m pursuing a full PhD, instead of opting into the MD/PhD route. I want to learn ways of thinking like a scientist and have firsthand experience doing research and running a science-focused lab.

Andrea in S Dorothy Hodgkin Top and S Rosalind Franklin Pant 2.0

What is the last accomplishment you celebrated?

After rotation, my current PI accepted me into her group right away. It feels great when your mentor is interested in you, wants to contribute to your growth, and sees you as an asset. I also just recently published a scientific paper where I was a first author. I feel like a real scientist now that I was able to accomplish that!

On another note, I have recently become involved with coronavirus (COVID-19) volunteer activities at Columbia. I am a lead on several projects in Columbia Research Against COVID-19 (CRAC). I have been coordinating volunteers to summarize scientific articles for doctors so they can get access to information that can help them develop vaccines and diagnostics, and also organizing weekly COVID-19 lectures to inform the Columbia community of recent research and discoveries related to the disease. In addition, I also work closely with the New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital (CHONY) to arrange volunteers to help clinical staff with non-patient facing activities. I have this urge to go to the hospital and help out. However, because I don’t have clinical experience yet, I am honored to be able to help from my couch and contribute towards the public fight of COVID-19.

Andrea in S Dorothy Hodgkin Top and S Rosalind Franklin Pant 2.0

Tell me something you think is strange about you

Up until now, I have not able to take care of a living plant. Now I have six plants in my apartment. Having a little bit of green around me has kept me feeling positive and bright during this quarantined time.

Could you describe your wardrobe?

I think my style is pretty unique. I love trendy pieces, but like to mix and match new and old clothes to look feminine, edgy, and cool.

Andrea in S Marie Curie Dress 2.0

Do your outfits differ in and out of the lab?

Yes they do! In the lab, I make sure to wear things that are tight because I don’t want to have an accident where I trip over something. I never wear dresses in the lab, opting instead for thick jeans or tight shirts. Outside of the lab, I am more expressive with clothes that make me feel prettier and nicer. I love pairing heels with large flowy pant, and a nice top.

Do you have a dresscode when working in your lab?

Generally, I am required to wear long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and close-toed shoes.

What outfits would you normally wear when you need to look nice for presentations or talks?

Generally, I substitute my jeans for work-appropriate pants. Usually, I go with pants and a blouse or shirt that is fitted. I would wear heels that are close-toed or edgy looking shoes.

Ester (left) in XS Marie Curie Dress 2.0 and Andrea (right) in S Marie Curie Dress 2.0

What advice would you give to female scientists to dress more appropriately or professionally in the lab?

I would look into building a capsule wardrobe of simple but classic pieces. Avoid prints if possible. I think high-waisted pants, knit shirts, and simple tops or blouses are a must in your professional wardrobe.

Follow Andrea @andreacarola_ and @coatsonheels. Email Andrea at au2211@cumc.columbia.edu if you are interested in volunteering for the CRAC program and at CHONY.

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