SHELBY WADDELL

Photo by Edgar Ramirez

Photo by Edgar Ramirez

 

THE SCIENTIST

 

So many women in my life came to mind when it was time to start setting up these interviews for A Woman’s Work. Shelby was always at the top of my list. She busted her ass to get to her current role, and she continues to strive for more fulfilling career and life goals.

Shelby is one of my kindest friends. I first met her at a hardcore/punk show in early 2013 in our hometown in West Texas. I don’t think she remembered me, but I remembered her. She was sweet and sarcastic and in the end her dry humor had won me over. 

Like most of our friend group from West Texas, she managed to make her way to Austin to start her career. Graduating from the The University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Spring of 2014 with a degree in Biology, she was quickly offered a job at Cerilliant Corporation in Round Rock, TX. Cerilliant is a network of laboratories that produces chemical reference standards for forensic and clinical testing. 

The stories Shelby would tell me about her work were always fascinating. But for me the most fascinating part of her job was the fact that women scientists outnumbered the men in a large way. 

One Saturday afternoon in early February, Shelby, our editor, Natalie Stevens, and I got together for brunch. I originally used this as an excuse to just eat a lot and gossip but we ended up talking about our jobs and careers. I decided to use this as a perfect segue for our interview. I wanted to know more about her work at Cerilliant and talk about how the idea of science being a male-dominated field is slowly becoming a thing of the past. 

Photo By Edgar Ramirez

Photo By Edgar Ramirez

 

What was your main inspiration to pursue a career in science?

Probably biology in ninth grade, we did the DNA sequence and I remember really liking it. I liked it so much that I went home and told my mom about it. Then at some point after that I decided I wanted to be a doctor or a surgeon because I really liked working with my hands and I also really like wearing scrubs. So in high school I started to really focus on science classes. 

At any point did you feel like being a woman in a male-dominated field was overwhelming? or did you actually feel the complete opposite? 

I don’t know because from my experience I’ve always been really lucky. My primary investigator in my college lab was a black women who was really about inclusiveness and diversity in science so that was really helpful to see while learning in school. 

At my current job, the president of my company is a woman, all the upper management are women, and everyone in my department are women. Oh wait, no there is one guy. Seven out of the eight people in my department are women and most of them have PHDs. So for me, I’ve just been really lucky to always be surrounded by mostly women.

 

Besides being a badass scientist, you’re also just a badass in general. You recently completed your first full marathon. So, whats next on your fitness to-do list?

Well, actually there is a half-marathon this weekend that I signed up to do. Probably going to do it even though I haven’t trained in a month due to an injury. But we will see. I’m also running the Cap 10k this April with my mom so I’m excited about that. 

 

You’re such an inspiration to me and to a lot of other people. Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others?

No.

 

[ Natalie laughs in the background]

 

Why not !?

I don’t know. A little bit of self-loathing and a little bit of imposter syndrome. But I feel like a lot of people deal with those things. It’s okay though. I’m working on it. 

Monica Valenzuela