Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  2 / 16 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 2 / 16 Next Page
Page Background





“When I was little I would say that I wanted to be a doctor during the day

and perform in ballets at night. It turned out a little differently,” says



, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at Wesleyan Uni-

versity. Etson began training as a ballet dancer from the age of seven, and

started her career as a dancer after graduating high school. “I performed and

choreographed professionally, both in ballet and in other dance genres, and I

got my bachelor’s degree in fine arts from New York University with a major

in dance,” she says. After a few years, she decided that she was ready to stop

performing, and returned to school.

She had always been interested in science, and in high school her parents en-

couraged her to take the most difficult science and math courses, even as she

was training to be a professional ballet dancer. “I wanted to go to a perform-

ing arts high school,” Etson explains, “but they wouldn’t let me because they

wanted me to get a solid academic education, not just learn about the arts.”

That strong science foundation helped Etson as she started at Hunter College

of the City University of New York, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree with

intentions of becoming a medical doctor.

Etson’s mother had been a middle school math and science teacher, and her

father an electrical engineer who was involved in the development of the first

Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). “Science was definitely something we

talked about at home, but I didn’t really have a good sense of how a person

would become an academic scientist,” she says.

In her introductory physics class, she realized that

she loved the subject, but was unsure about what

careers would be open to her should she pursue a

physics degree. “I asked the professor about careers

in physics,” Etson explains. “He was very encour-

aging, and suggested that I apply for the Minority

Access to Research Careers (MARC) scholarship.” She took his advice and

was selected as a MARC scholar, which supported her to continue toward

earning her bachelor’s degree in physics.

As part of the MARC program, Etson was able to do research in an optics

lab at Hunter College and spent a summer working in

Steven Siegelbaum’s

neuroscience laboratory at Columbia University. While she was at Columbia,

Etson attended a talk about research using simulations based on molecular

forces to try to link together various crystal structures of ion channels to cre-

ate an animation of how they might move during gating. “I thought that was

incredibly fascinating, and I started asking people lots of questions about it,”

she says. “One friendly postdoc told me that I should think about studying

biophysics, and he even pointed me to the Biophysical Society website. I was

hooked, and I decided that I wanted to study biophysics in graduate school.”

Etson went on to a PhD program in biophysics at Harvard University, study-

ing in the lab of

Antoine van Oijen

. During her PhD studies, Etson became

interested in single molecule techniques, which she uses in her work today. “I

was always dissatisfied with the very deterministic descriptions of biological

processes that I had heard in less advanced coursework. My physics training

made me feel that these descriptions could not be realistic,” she explains. “I

really got excited about the idea that when you study these processes at the




Edward Egelman


Suzanne Scarlata


Dorothy Beckett


Frances Seporovic


Paul Axelsen


Olga Boudker

Ruth Heidelberger

Kalina Hristova

Juliette Lecomte

Amy Lee

Robert Nakamoto

Gabriela Popescu

Joseph D. Puglisi

Michael Pusch

Erin Sheets

Antoine van Oijen

Bonnie Wallace

Biophysical Journal

Leslie Loew


Society Office

Ro Kampman

Executive Officer


Ray Wolfe


Laura Phelan


Ellen Weiss

Public Affairs

Beth Staehle

Publisher's Forum


Biophysical Society Newsletter

(ISSN 0006-3495) is published

twelve times per year, January-

December, by the Biophysical

Society, 11400 Rockville Pike, Suite

800, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

Distributed to USA members

and other countries at no cost.

Canadian GST No. 898477062.

Postmaster: Send address changes

to Biophysical Society, 11400

Rockville Pike, Suite 800, Rockville,

MD 20852. Copyright © 2015 by

the Biophysical Society. Printed in

the United States of America.

All rights reserved.

I never want to forget how

important five minutes can be for

someone who is trying to find his

or her path.

Candice Etson

Biophysicist in Profile