Maureen Berg

Maureen Berg, PhD Student 
UC Berkeley


What is your work/research topic? My current research focuses on understanding host-microbiota interactions. Currently, I am identifying how host factors (such as immune function, digestion, stress responses, etc.) shape the composition of the gut microbial community.

BERG_M_1Maureen Berg is a PhD student at UC Berkeley. Follow Maureen @MaureenBug

What was your best day of science? My committee meeting last year. It was the first time I felt really comfortable and confident talking about my data, my project timeline, and my ideas. The past few years were rough because of issues in my personal life and conflicts with my advisor, so that meeting was an eye-opening way for me to see how much I’ve grown not only as a scientist, but as a person. From then on, I’ve felt like I’ve finally come into my own as an independent scientist.

What was your worst day in science? The day before the revisions for my first first-author paper were due. Like I mentioned previously, I had a lot of conflict with my advisor at that time. Many of these conflicts came to a head that day, making it a very low point in my grad career. However, I’ve learned a lot from experiences like these; not only about how to deal with conflict, but learning how to effectively voice my opinions.

What did/are you study at university? I received my B.Sc in Biology from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. I am now a PhD candidate in the department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley.



BERG_M_2.jpgWhere did you grow up? In Cincinnati, Ohio.

What profession did you think you would be when you were a kid? I’ve always loved animals, so when I was a kid I wanted to be a vet.

What do you do to relax outside of lab? Run, hang out with cats, hike

Do you have any pets? Yes! A leopard gecko and a mouse

Do you have any fun hobbies? Distance running, so I sometimes travel to fun places for races (e.g. Maui). My partner and I like to hike, so we take advantage of being near so many awesome national and state parks.


BERG_M_3.jpgIs there any one event or person who/that made you want to be a scientist? There definitely wasn’t one single or person along the way, but many small events and people. My father is an engineer, so as kids we always were building things, and figuring out how things worked. I also had many science teachers that were fantastic, so it was more of a continuously supportive environment that allowed me to get and stay interested in science. I don’t really have any memories as a kid of anyone telling me that I can’t be a scientist. I was fortunate to have supportive parents, and also to have an aunt who is a scientist. Representation matters. 🙂

Why were you drawn to science? Did you ever consider another career path? How close was your schooling related to your current job?

What was your biggest challenge during your degree? Like I previously said, I had a lot of conflict with my advisor. It was a lot of dedicated time and energy to work through that. On top of that, my brother unexpectedly died 7 weeks before my qualifying exams. These were both big challenges, but I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a result.

What was your biggest motivation to obtain your PhD? I’ve wanted to be a scientist for most of my life, so a PhD was a way towards that goal.

What is your best advice for girls interested in science? The standard advice is to say that girls shouldn’t let anyone tell them that they can’t do science – and that’s great advice. However, something I’ve learned from my time as a grad student is to not only tune those people out, but to know that you’re a capable and important person. Your feelings, ideas, and opinions matter, and you have the right to experience them and share them.


What is your favorite desk snack? Something light – fruit or nuts are a normal go to.
What would you listen to while writing? Nothing. I sometimes put on headphones with nothing playing to block noise and prevent others from interrupting me. For figure making (or similar tasks that don’t require a lot of reading/writing), I like to listen to anything that infects my mind, and puts me in a whole other world. This has been anything from Kanye to Nirvana to Goldfish.
What was your favorite subject in high school? I think it was just called “Chemistry II.” This was my favorite class solely because of the teacher. He was the first to teach me about how scientists approach experiments and problems in real life (he worked in industry before he became a teacher). If things went wrong in with our experiment, he encouraged us to try and troubleshoot the issue, and stressed the importance of learning from and documenting those types of experiences – not every experiment will work the first time.
Organization nut, or curated chaos? Definitely a little of both, but overall more of an organizational nut
What color socks are you wearing? Lime green!