Zebrafish And Radiation

Meet neuroscience major Stephanie Gee ’20.

September 3, 2020

Major: Neuroscience

Hometown: Los Altos, California

Thesis adviser: Prof. Kara Cerveny

Thesis: The Effects of Low-Dose Gamma Radiation on Zebrafish Development

What it’s about: I exposed 4-day old zebrafish to radiation and then imaged them at 5 and 9 days old to see what changed, compared to non-irradiated controls. I found three incredible compensatory responses: 1) elevated radioprotective pigmentation, 2) delayed red blood cell elevation, and 3) macrophage elevation.

What it’s really about: Spending a year exploring my three passions—biology, radiation science, and photography—at the same time.

In high school: I was really good at making flashcards.

Influential professor: On one of the first days of Behavioral Neuroscience, Paul Currie scooped a sheep brain out of a bucket and put it in my hands. I’d been studying neuroscience for a while by then but had never seen a real brain. That was probably one of the happiest days I had at Reed. And of course, Kara Cerveny and Melinda Krahenbuhl, who made my dream thesis possible.

Influential book: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. She writes about loss and intergenerational trauma, and about finding hope while experiencing both. After coming to Reed two months after my dad passed away unexpectedly, that made a huge difference.

Concept that blew my mind: Scientific progress is built on failure.

Cool stuff: Learned how to stand backwards on a cantering horse. Trained with professional circus acrobats. Hiked Machu Picchu. Photographed wild orangutans to help remote villages in Indonesian Borneo access healthcare. Worked as a pro photographer for B-Corp venture capitalists. Presented research at five conferences around the nation. Analyzed flies from the ISS for NASA. Researched a cure for ALS. Operated Reed’s nuclear reactor.

Challenges I faced: Limiting the number of houseplants I have. We’re at 30 and counting.

How Reed changed me: I realized that flashcards weren’t the best way to learn what’s most important—like how to think critically, solve problems, and express my ideas. Now, I try to learn through engaging deeply with material, so flashcards no longer appear in obscure places (shoes, the laundry machine, etc.).

Financial aid: Financial aid made my Reed education possible. Without it, the unique research opportunities, global travel, and incredible connections I made at Reed wouldn’t have happened. I’m very grateful.

What’s next: The Watson Fellowship. I’ll spend a year investigating how atomic radiation influences lives around the world by researching the biological effects and photographing the social impacts. I’m doing so in Japan, South Korea, Ukraine, Australia, Madagascar, and Austria.