Open Labs Spotlight: Matt Grobis

When asking a scientist what motivated them to pursue their career in science, it’s common to hear that the scientist always just enjoyed science and decided to focus their career goals in that direction. Matt Grobis, on the other hand, never considered pursuing science as a career until he had an eye-opening experience in his biology class during his junior year of high school in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Until this class, he wanted to be an author and particularly enjoyed his English classes, but he soon discovered he equally enjoyed learning about the natural world that surrounds us. After beginning college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an English major, Matt soon transferred to integrative biology to continue studying how the natural world works while still pursuing his writing interests.

Matt is a firm believer in not getting discouraged when things don’t go according to plan. While Illinois was not his top choice for college, he had an incredible experience and took advantage of the many opportunities there. Despite graduating college with uncertainty about the next steps, a sudden stroke of luck appeared two weeks later with a scholarship he’d been waiting on.  Matt also applies this mentality to his current research. He explains that “data collection and experiments rarely work out the way you imagine. It all looks smooth from a distance, with one step logically leading to the next. But it’s often not!” As a graduate student at Princeton in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department, Matt studies the behavior of animal groups and, specifically, how schools of fish relay information through their group to avoid predators. Matt uses quantitative approaches such as computer programming to address his research questions in the Couzin lab

Although he didn’t consider himself good at math or computers prior to entering graduate school, Matt’s research required him to dive into programming head on and he now truly appreciates the vast potential programming provides him: better data visualizations, more intricate data analysis, faster processing; the list goes on. “Don’t be afraid to try learning something intimidating!” Matt says. “You never know where it will take you.”

Matt loves research but he’s keeping future doors open. “If the past taught me anything, it’s that life doesn’t always go according to plan. I’d love to do research as a professor at a fancy university. But I’d also be really excited to work as a data scientist at a company, or to focus on delivering informative and interesting lectures as a professor at a small liberal arts college. We’ll see what happens.” In the meantime, one of Matt’s biggest priorities is communicating science in a way that is accessible to everyone. To that end, Matt maintains a blog called The Headbanging Behaviorist and is a co-founder and director of the Open Labs branch at Princeton. He is also a co-founder and the managing editor for Highwire Earth, a blog on sustainable development.

Thanks to Matt for all his hard work with the Princeton branch of Open Labs and for sharing his story and advice with us! If you have any questions for Matt or about Open Labs in general, please send us an email at Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more up to date information on events and news!

Open Labs Member Spotlight: Cait Williamson

Cait Williamson, a graduate student at Columbia University, understands the importance of being a well-rounded student. Throughout her schooling, this same theme emerges- trying something different helped her identify her passions. During her high school years in California, she took numerous classes including math, history, literature, physics and biology to discover her talent and love for the biological sciences. Cait tested her tolerance for a different climate and culture by traveling across the country to attend undergrad in New York at Columbia University. At college, Cait was planning on majoring in Biology on a pre-med track until she took a psychology class and decided to major in Neuroscience and Behavior. However, it wasn’t until getting experience in both a lab and volunteering at a hospital that she realized she wanted to be a scientist. Thinking creatively to solve interesting problems that affect society was the path she was truly interested in pursuing.

Cait loves the variety and opportunities to try new things in graduate school as well. In Cait’s research in the Curley lab, where she studies what happens behaviorally and biologically in the brain when a social network is changed, she uses a variety of methods to understand behavioral, social and biological questions in a creative way! But Cait doesn’t spend all of her time in lab and she recommends to find other fun things to do to help unwind! In fact, in her free time she runs marathons and is currently training for her fourth! Go Cait!

Her well-balanced approach to training so far is one she recommends for young students- get diverse set of experiences and try lots of new things to decide what you might be interested in doing! And even if you are late in your high school or college experience with no idea what to do next, she stresses not to panic because everything will work out in the end! Cait is following her own advice when trying to determine what she wants to do for a career. She is keeping the door open for several potential careers including teaching (which she loves) or maybe even data analytics, consulting, or working for a private company. Her story is just one of many other examples of people being open to new opportunities as they present themselves. We’re glad she is a part of the Open Labs team where she gets to share all of her experience and advice with the next generation of scientists!

If you have any questions for Cait, other members of the Open Labs team, or if you want more information on how to attend or get involved with upcoming events, contact us at Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for latest Open Labs and science updates!


2016 Spring Science Cafe at Yale was a success!

On Sunday, April 10th, Yale Open Labs hosted another successful Science Cafe event! Over 100 students and parents, along with dozens of graduate student volunteers, took time out of their busy schedules to listen to four fantastic science talks given by graduate students who perform cutting edge science at Yale.

Our first speaker, Charles Brown, is a PhD student in Physics and gave an outstanding talk on quantum uncertainty. This talk was followed up with an exciting story presented by Pathology PhD student, Molly Gale, about a successful targeted cancer therapy used in the treatment of breast cancer. Our third speaker was Andrew Barentine who gave us an overview of very "cool" work he did involving use of super cold atoms. Finally, Michelle Hutchings, a PhD student in Chemistry, told us about the road to how scientists like her go about identifying the many potential uses of tiny microbes.

Following the talks, students got to ask the speakers and other volunteer graduate students about science, their research, as well as college and careers. There were some great questions asked following the talks as well as at the small group discussions. The students, parents, and graduate students all learned a lot from each other and had a great time!

Thank you to all of the students and parents who attended the Yale Science Cafe! Without you, this event wouldn't be possible! A special thank you to all of the speakers. graduate student volunteers, and Pathways to Science team for helping out and making this event such a success! We can't wait for future Science Cafes and Open Labs events!

Want more information and up-to-date news? Follow us on Twitter at @YaleOpenLabs or on Facebook at


Check out the Open Labs Introductory Video!

Are you interested in learning more about Open Labs? Watch our introductory video about Open Labs and to get an idea about why we love science! We can't wait to share this passion with you! If you want to get more involved, explore our website to get more information on upcoming events like Science Cafe or laboratory tours or to get more in depth information about a topic you might have heard about at an event. We look forward to seeing you at upcoming events and hope you enjoy your journey in science!