Monika Shpokayte

How I got into science

I loved biology since I was a child. My father used to take me out on fishing trips. I learned how fragile the ecosystem was. He taught me the internal anatomy of fish, crabs, worms; you name it, I knew it. We always competed who caught the biggest fish; sometimes I actually won. I owe a great deal of my career to my parents who always pushed me to study biology even when I was told I wasn’t good enough.

Fast forward 6 years to the middle school science fair. It was the event I waited for EVERY year. I never made it to the final judging rounds. The kids of the PTA parents always did though. It was 8th grade, my final year, and I was determined to win. After searching online for cool experiments, I found one I loved. It was a genetic engineering experiment that would make e-coli Glow in the Dark. Soon enough I was going home from school with box of e-coli and a paranoid mother, who thought we would all end up vomiting in the ER by the end of the night. Somehow, in my apartment, with no proper tools, I completed the experiment. The petri dish looked like it housed glowing, tiny mountains. I got into the final rounds of the science fair. I was sure I was going to win first place. I got honorable mention (last place). No one believed that I actually did it on my own. The boy who did the ‘Acids and Bases’ experiment got first place. I still hold onto that ribbon as a reminder of perseverance, passion, and to never let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.

In high school I began to discover myself. I wanted to be a neuroscientist. No, I wanted to be a neurologist. No! I wanted to become a neurosurgeon. I wanted to save lives.

In college, I began my race towards medschool. However, that passion for laboratory work was still burning inside me. I wanted to join a lab. I worked in Dr. Jeff Beeler’s lab at CUNY Queens college where I helped him build the lab from the ground up. I worked with a man that treated me as an equal and who believed in me. He gave me the golden opportunity I had be waiting for: set up the optogenetics and chemogenetics for the lab. I worked tirelessly to make it all work (and it did J). I am proud of what I left behind. I will now continue my efforts to work just as hard for Steve, who like Jeff, also treats me as an equal. I have been very lucky in my life to find amazing mentors and I can only wish to be just as great to my future students.

Non-science biography:

Let’s see, do I even have a life outside of the lab? I just recently moved from New York and am spending most of my time exploring Boston, especially the food! I am not a sports fan so thankfully I don’t have to deal with the Yankees vs Red Sox rivalry.

I ABSOLUTELY have a passion for fashion. You can find me thrift shopping on weekends I am not working (I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket).

I try to go home to New York as much as possible. I’m such a mama’s girl. Always missing my family. I’m also an AWESOME cook. You name it, I’ll make it. Pinterest is my best friend. Maison jars ALL THE WAY! I love animals. You will often catch me just watching endless kitten/puppy videos. I left my dog back in New York and am currently VERY puppy deprived. Soon my feelings will just burst and I will come home with a bazillion animals!

I also have a tendency to BOOP everyone’s nose. You have been warned.



How the Brain Changes Itself (duh… read above)


Good Will Hunting


It’s a tie between Rick and Morty and Game of Thrones


Old School Rap/R&B


Tacos/ Tapas/ Pasta/ steak/ EVERYTHING


Tequila, on the rocks, splash of grapefruit



Coffee, friend or foe:

Can’t live without

One thing I’m sorry I’m not sorry about

My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I want ALL the food.

What I look for in a scientist

Someone who is down to earth, creative, and doesn’t have a god-complex. If you treat your coworkers as your family, you will be my family. Just be passionate, innovative, and humble and we will get along like two peas in a pod!