JESS ANAND, PhD

Research Faculty in the Pharmacology Department

Hometown: Canton, Massachusetts


Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston. While it was comparatively liberal, I went to a prep school and was often the “only”. The only brown person in the room, the only first generation American, the only (out) queer person. I was fortunate to have a solid group of friends and a few trusted teachers who helped me be comfortable in my own skin. I did my undergrad at Barnard – a women’s liberal arts college in NYC – and really developed a found family. I think that having a support network of people is hugely important.”

What is your favorite thing about working at/for the University of Michigan?

“UofM really does have a lot of resources and a lot of people. If you look, you can probably find someone who shares your interests/identities. And there is the infrastructure to build something new and better if you don’t like what’s out there.”

When and why did you decide to follow your current career?

“It’s cheesy, but I had a high school chemistry teacher who blew something up for each section. I decided I liked chemistry after that. Turns out you don’t actually want to blow things up in lab all the time. :/ “

What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? If it’s different than what you are currently doing, what inspired the change?

For better or worse my professional life has followed a pretty clear trajectory. My dad is also a PhD scientist (mechanical engineering) and here I am as a PhD scientist (medicinal chemistry). Though there was one Thanksgiving where I kept yanking my dad’s chain by saying I wanted to be a hot air balloonist when I grew up.”

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

“I had a couple of tech theatre teachers in high school, they taught me a lot of things that I try to model today. Adults are people too: they have strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and feelings. You can choose to be like the authority figures in your life or choose to be something else. You don’t have to follow the path that your family (or any other “authority”) tells you that you should. You should also try to recognize the humanity of people around you too, you have no idea what they may be going through. We’re all just human.”

How are you able to balance outreach or DEI work and your career?

“I think the two need to be intertwined. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion aren’t separate things that are off in the corner. We need to remember that scientists are people. Our audiences are people. Our research serves people. We need to see and support and understand people in all their dimensions when we do our work.”

What is your greatest source of inspiration to keep pushing toward completing your goals?

“I want to be able to have a safe, comfortable, interesting life. I want everyone else to have the same. Big picture, I want to work towards that.”

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

“Defining success and happiness for yourself is important. Don’t just accept other people’s definitions.”

What advice would you give to an aspiring scientist?

“Make sure you want it. The life of a scientist isn’t usually glamorous. It’s not even always lucrative. It’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of school. In the current political climate, it’s not even really valued. But science can be so interesting. And so rewarding. Just really look at why you want to be here.”

What do you like to do when you have free time?

“I like to eat, cook, and garden. I like to read sci-fi and fantasy novels and play unnecessarily complicated board games. It’s really all pretty nerdy and I love it.”

 

How do you de-stress?

“I try to move my body and not my mind. So things like yoga or taking a walk with the dog.”

What’s your secret for time-management and being productive?

“Setting boundaries. I’m a happier more productive human when I make sure I define time for all the things I think are important and don’t let them encroach on each other.”

Can students contact you directly?

“Yes. I’d be happy to talk to people about most things. My email is janand@umich.edu.”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Spotlights are created with the help of Nnamdi Edokobi, third-year PhD candidate, Pharmacology Department.