This is Regina, our latest addition to our collection of Sexy Scientists and Engineers. Sure, she cheered for the Washington Redskins but she’s also held a beating heart. True story (read on).
Regina graduated from college with a major in Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry. She won a scholarship from the National Institutes of Health to spend summers doing biomed research at Stanford and Yale. She was a Molecular Biologist at the National Institutes of Health researching the genes that cause rare skin diseases (she found a few and had papers published in Nature Genetics, Human Genetics and The Journal of Dermatological Science). Then she went to law school at Georgetown University while she was a Redskins cheerleader (Georgetown rescheduled her final exams so she could participate in the swimsuit calendar photo shoot!) Also during law school she competed in a few pageants and was 1st Runner-up to Miss D.C. USA. Oh, she’s licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia as well as the United States Supreme Court. She worked as a patent attorney until science called her back to medical school. She earned an M.D. and took up a surgery internship in Texas and now she’s putting it all together by earning a LL.M., an advanced law degree she plans to someday apply to a career in health law as in-house council at a hospital. She’s also an adjunct professor teaching anatomy and physiology to nursing students and has her sights set on competing in pageants and trying out for another professional team this year.
I had a chance to interview Regina. (Thanks to Laura Eilers at Going Pro Entertaining for letting me know about Regina! Laura and I are coproducing a Stage Show at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in October in Washington, D.C. Watch Pro Cheerleaders-turned-Scientists perform on stage then chat with them in the Science Cheerleader exhibit and learn how they bridge two seemingly different worlds.)
Regina, tell us what turned you onto science. I have been interested in science as long as I can remember. When I was 4 I would dig around in the backyard looking for worms and insects and then bring them in and look at them under a microscope I got as a Christmas present. My grandmother was also a nurse so that also gave me the inspiration to pursue a science related career.
Do you find that being a cheerleader helped or hindered your professional experiences. Were you taken seriously? I don’t think being a cheerleader has hurt my professional experience and I have always included it on my resume. I can be a very shy person in person so people are often surprised to find out that I was a professional cheerleader. It helps break the ice and most people find it different and interesting. When I was in medical school they put my Redskin Cheerleader picture in the admissions catalog. People do tell me that “I don’t look like a Doctor” which occasionally hurts my feelings (what exactly should a doctor look like?).
How did you balance two seemingly different worlds of science and cheerleading? The balance has been pretty easy for me. People always tell me that I am the queen of multitasking, I am always doing multiple unrelated things at once. Although they are seemingly two different worlds, I have learned things from each that help the other.
What are typical reactions you’ve received when people learn about your cheerleading days? They are usually surprised (especially when they see the pictures). People that know me when I was younger (even in college), know that I was extremely shy. When I was in my early 20′s I decided to start competing in pageants to help me break out of my shyness and become more comfortable speaking in public. That is how I got involved with cheerleading.
What were typical reactions when folks learned about your science/law studies, when you were a cheerleader? Actually when I was a cheerleader there were 2 other law students and 1 lawyer on the team.
Tell me a little about your favorite courses you took to prepare for your professional career. My favorite courses would have to be anatomy and health law.
Why science AND law? When I was working at NIH and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do long term as a career my boss would give me articles about alternative science careers. That is how I became interested in patent law. There are so many ways that science, medicine and law are entangled and I love being apart of all of these field.
Do you have any advice for middle or high school girls who might feel torn between following one dream (cheerleading or dancing) associated with beauty or following another (science/engineering) usually associated with, well, geeks? My advice to girls would be to do both (follow both dreams) and, although it may be hard, to ignore the negative comments. Cheerleading, dancing, pageants are all fantastic activities that you can learn so much from (teamwork, public speaking, fitness, etc.). In addition to that there are so many interesting careers in science, medicine, engineering, etc. Study hard, but continue to take dance lessons, continue to be a cheerleader or continue to compete in pageants. Don’t let anyone talk you out of enjoying cheerleading or pageant activities and don’t let anyone talk you out of any career in the sciences. I am prime example of someone that can be a so called “geek” yet still be a cheerleader, etc. at the same time!
Best “cheerleading” moment? It would have to be a tie between running out of the tunnel for the very first time and being asked to autograph my swimsuit calendar picture for the first time.
Best science moment? The first time I touched a beating heart (it makes you realize how fragile and precious life is).