Interview with Studylog User Stephanie Casey Parks

March 5, 2019
Yasmina Ibsen

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we at Studylog would like to put the spotlight on Stephanie, a scientist at Amgen Oncology and a loyal Studylog user of many years.

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Santa Barbara, in Southern California, and I went to undergrad at UCLA, where I studied Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics along with English. I did my PhD at UC Irvine in Cancer Biology after that; after my PhD, I did a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford.

What got you first interested in science?

I’ve always loved science in all forms, from evaluating things, asking questions; I even did the science fair when I was in junior high, but I actually had more of a behavioral science type of project. My eighth grade science teacher, Will Winn, was actually quite instrumental in convincing me of how fantastic science could be. He held voluntary activities on the weekend for students - things like nature walks by creeks or tide pooling at Santa Barbara’s beaches. Despite the fact that all of these activities were optional, nearly every kid in the class came, which I just thought was incredible.

What would you say to a young woman considering a career in science or specifically oncology?

When I was in undergrad at UCLA, it was really strongly emphasized that students get involved in research and most students were working in laboratories by their third year, which I think is actually pretty unique. I would say that finding an opportunity to do hands on research and figuring out which field most interests you is incredibly important. It’s a fantastic time to learn and so I think getting involved in research at an early time would be a really great opportunity for someone considering a career in science.

What is important to you personally? I.e.what things do you value most in life?

I think it’s important that as scientists, we do the best that we can and we ask important questions, questions that could change a paradigm or advance the field. Sometimes the answer is unexpected or sometimes the answer is no, and that’s okay. I also think it’s important for scientists to better communicate what we do to a lay audience, and to our friends and family. There’s a lot of people who think that science is kind of a mystery black box and I think it’s our job to help out with that. Science literacy isn’t doing so well in this country right now so I think it’s tremendously important to communicate what we do and why we do it.

What are some of the challenges you have faced either in your career or personally that you feel have helped you become the successful scientist and person you are?

Everyone in science would probably agree that we all have experiments that fail or questions that we can’t answer, and at the time we often don’t understand why, and we get really frustrated, but I think it’s pushing through and continuing to ask why, much like we did when we were in junior high and first got interested in science, that we’ll make those interesting findings.

What did you think when you first saw Studylog?

That’s a funny question! I had just transitioned from academia to industry, I had just come off of my postdoc at Stanford, and I was honestly baffled that such a thing existed and that I’d gone so long without it. Working in research, I just couldn’t believe that this existed because it was so fantastic. I immediately knew that it would save me so much time and allow me to do much larger and much, much more complex studies.

How has Studylog impacted you or your team?

We’re able to do very large and very intricate studies and the ability to randomize into very well-matched study groups is incredibly valuable to us, so everything from taking daily measurements to randomization time points, to viewing our data is just so much easier.  In our group, another thing that we really like is not having to reinvent the wheel all the time. If you’re working with a new antibody or a new cell line and you want to see if someone else in the group has used it and what their data looked like, we can peek into Studylog and just type in a search term of a particular cell line and see if someone’s used it and what that data looked like. It easily pulls up that data and saves us so much time. It allows us to be very collaborative and like I mentioned, just not reinvent the wheel all the time by having all that data at our fingertips.

Has Studylog saved you time, and if so, can you estimate how much?

I would say everyday, it likely saves me hours. It’s probably hard to quantitate but I definitely don’t miss all the post-it notes and paper towels that I used to use write notes on.

What would you say to people who prefer to use Excel because it is free?

Although they both record data, I think that’s probably about the end of the comparison. Studylog allows you to track each and every data point over time, and it allows you to randomize your groups which is something that Excel doesn’t offer. You can immediately pull up and graph your data in the study, and you can export your data into your analysis program of choice. I used to use Excel in my prior life and you just can’t do a fraction of what you can do with Studylog.

Do you have any favorite features?

Randomization, absolutely randomization.

What do you do for fun when you’re not curing cancer?

I spend a lot of time with my family, and when the weather is a lot better than it is today we try to go to the beach or do things outside. I also go to a lot of concerts, so I’m seeing Pete Yorn in San Francisco tomorrow.

I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your day to speak with me, I really do appreciate it!

Happy to help out! When I met the Studylog team at a conference that I went to a couple of weeks ago, they said, “Oh, we love talking to people that actually use it,” and I said, “Well, coming from academia where we didn’t have anything like this and I literally had notes written on paper towels or sticky notes, it just completely changes how you do science.”  I’m a very happy customer because I’ve seen the other side. It just changes the type of studies you can do because in industry we do much larger, more complicated, more highly powered studies but if you were trying to do studies of that size the old fashioned way, it’s not feasible. It’s just absolutely not feasible. I did make the people that work in my old lab a little sad because I said, “Guess what we have here? It’s so amazing,” and they said, “Wait, what?! You shouldn’t have told us that!”

Studylog envy? That’s amazing!

There’s absolutely Studylog envy now that people have heard about all the options researchers have available to us.