Lillian Horin knew she wanted to study biology when she was in fifth grade and first learned about neurotransmitters. But with minimal resources for STEM education through her schools and a lack of mentors and visible role models, there was little opportunity to immerse herself in science, much less neurobiology. For many years, her dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon would fade to the background. It wouldn’t be until an opportune encounter as a new freshman at Pitzer College, that Lillian would find herself on a completely new trajectory which would include graduate school and a growing YouTube channel for STEM students.
Reigniting Her Passion & Finding Community
As a freshman in college, Lillian saw an HHMI pre-orientation sign-up. Though she was technically enrolled as a Political Studies major, she suddenly recalled her own excitement around neruotransmitters from years before, and signed up for the orientation on the spot. The program quickly rekindled her interest in STEM and she met a mentor who was also the President of the SACNAS chapter.
This mentor helped push Lillian into taking an active role in the chapter, building her community, and attending the next three SACNAS conferences (2014 – 2016), where she would eventually obtain a travel scholarship and present her research. At this point, Lillian’s dreams of pursuing a career in STEM were becoming more possible than ever before. In 2015, she participated in a summer research program at UC Merced, and during the summer after, she conducted research at Harvard University. These research experiences changed her trajectory from pursuing a pre-health profession to becoming a research scientist. As a result, she applied to several PhD programs and moved to Harvard University to pursue a PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences.
A Virtual Role Model
In 2017, as part of a New Year’s Resolution, Lillian decided she wanted to learn how to edit videos. She thought it would be a good skill to have, as well as a way to animate and showcase some of her work as a graduate student. She created a YouTube channel where she could share her experiences, give advice, and be the visible role model of a scientist she never had. Today Lillian’s channel boasts 1800 subscribers.
Reflecting on the Journey
Now looking back, Lillian says she never envisioned that her studies would lead her to the place she is now: a second year PhD student making YouTube videos in her limited spare time.
In the future, she dreams of on curriculum development for those with disabilities to learn about STEM because, after her own high school experience, Lillian sees the opportunity and need to improve the accessibility of STEM. Ultimately, through her studies, YouTube channel, and career goals, Lillian hopes that her long road to STEM doesn’t have to be so long for the next little girl who is fascinated with neurotransmitters.