Leslie Amodeo

Leslie Amodeo, Postdoctoral Scholar
The Scripps Research Institute in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Life in the Lab

What is your area of research? Developmental Neurophysiology and Alcoholism in animal models.

What was your best day of science? When I got my first NIH research grant.

What was your worst day in science? When my first grad school PI told me that “it was not going to work” and I would need to find a new lab.

fullsizerender_1Dr. Leslie Amodeo is a postdoctoral Scholar at The Scripps Research Institute in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience. She has a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Illinois – Chicago.

What did you study at university? Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

What is your favorite piece of technology or equipment you get to use in your job? In vivo electrophysiology

Life Outside of Lab

Where did you grow up? San Bernardino, California

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I thought i was going to be in the Forestry Service.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? I like to go to the zoo, aquarium, or park with the kiddos.

Do you have any pets? We have a Dog (lab/pit mix) and cat

Do you have any fun hobbies? Are kids a hobby? Because I sure do spend a lot of time and money on them!

fullsizerenderDr. Amodeo getting some help from the littlest research assistant.

Tell us a little bit about your family. I was married after my first year in grad school (PhD) in 2011. We had Etta right after my preliminary exam in 2013. Since we really couldn’t afford daycare on grad student incomes, Dennis (my husband) and I split days and we had an undergraduate student watch her for a couple hours a week. We had an amazingly supportive department, but not without its own challenges. In 2015 we had Nina, 5 days before Dennis proposed his dissertation and not even a month before we moved for his post-doc in San Diego. I stayed home to finish writing my dissertation and take care of Nina (who had colic at the time). After defending my dissertation at the beginning of 2016 I began a post-doc fellowship at Scripps.

Dennis was offered a tenured faculty position at Cal State San Bernardino starting fall 2016 and currently stays at the university (2h away) most of the week. The “two-body” problem has had a huge impact on our family in the recent year and I am contemplating my options (2nd post doc, adjunct teaching, commuting back to San Diego, etc.) as we move forward.

Big Picture

Is there any one event or person who/that made you want to be in STEM? I don’t think there was any one event or person. I worked in a lab that was built on peer mentorship which played a huge role in preparing me for grad school.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? To find an internship as soon as you feel ready. The most important thing is to get involved. Science is not for everyone so getting your feet wet is a great way to decide whether this is the career path for you. Don’t wait till you graduate to decide to work in a lab.

Why do you think it is important to have more women in STEM? I think women provide a great asset to science and there are a lot of personal benefits that comes with it (flexibility in work hours, creativity in experimental design, outreach programs, etc.). STEM is becoming incredibly important in our society with many of the high paying jobs in these fields. Reducing the gender gap is one imperative way we can make STEM more accessible to everyone.

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job? Surprisingly, I always wanted to do this. I just got lucky and went to an undergraduate school that had a neuroscience program. While this was the case, I was also told to “never shut doors” and that as an undergrad you should be open to changing majors because it is much harder to change career paths the longer you wait.

What was your biggest struggle during your degree? I still struggle with feeling confident in science and am afraid that someone will call me out as an imposter. Because of this I refrain (even to this day) from calling myself a “scientist”. This fear and insecurity has haunted me throughout grad school and continues into my post-doc. I think this is a big issue for women in science since many struggle to emphasize their skills and/or achievements which in the end can have a negative effect on their careers.

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? Obtaining my PhD was a career choice and was just another step forward on that career path. I wouldn’t have done it if it was not to advance my career.

What do you think is a hurdle for many women in STEM that needs to change? I think a lot of women in STEM talk about body image and how they dress or look makes them an outcast. I dealt with this a lot since I was pregnant twice during graduate school. While I’m not bothered by comments about my body, it is a strange feeling for people to stare and make uncomfortable comments about your looks. Being pregnant is a neon sign that says “I’m a woman that shouldn’t be working” and while I had a ton of support from the department and my husband, there are plenty of people who don’t.


What is your favorite book? The Color Monster
What is your favorite desk snack? Coffee
What is your favorite cartoon? Doc McStuffins
What would you listen to while writing? RadioLab
What was your favorite subject in high school? Spanish
What is the strangest thing on your desk right now? A welder, but I guess that’s not that crazy.
What color socks are you wearing? None.
Organization nut, or curated chaos? I wish it was the former.