Emily Rose Peirent ’15

Doctoral candidate in University of Michigan’s neuroscience graduate program

What advice would you give to a girl graduating from Williston today?   

Life’s too short to spend it doing something that makes you miserable. You probably won’t have the time of your life every day, and some periods will be harder than others, but if you dread going to school or work every day it’s time to rethink things. It’s ok to make a difference in the world and make yourself happy at the same time.

Tell us about a woman who is your hero—or “she-ro!”—and why?

To be honest, I don’t like the term “she-ro”. We don’t refer to male scientists or male lawyers or male businessmen. We don’t ask men who their “he-roes” are. I think the term belittles a woman’s accomplishments and implies she is impressive for a woman, rather than for a person.

Acknowledging women’s achievements and the challenges we still face is important, but we have to be careful not to further perpetuate sexism and gender roles by relegating ourselves to cutesy qualifiers that mitigate our accomplishments and imply that only men are actual heroes. Why not take ownership of our achievements and use hero as the gender-neutral term it is instead?

What motivates you in your work and life?

Most scientific experiments fail and it can take years of work to generate any conclusive results. What motivates me is that everyone knows someone dealing with a brain-related issue, from dementia to anxiety and depression. All of these disorders have a huge impact on society in addition to the struggles individuals and their families go through on a daily basis. This really hit home for me in July when I was fortunate enough to meet patients and their families at the 2022 ASXL Research Symposium organized by the ARRE Foundation, a family-run organization dedicated to furthering research into a trio of rare genetic developmental disorders and providing support to affected families. When all my projects fail and I want to give up, I think about how every experiment I do brings us the tiniest bit closer to improving someone’s life, such as lessening the communication difficulties, seizures, and gastrointestinal problems the kids I met deal with every day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Advocate for yourself. Ask for that raise or recommendation letter or opportunity because no one else is going to do it for you. especially as a woman. People will say yes more than you expect and you won’t be any worse off if they don’t.