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Professor Spotlight: Juliette Gorson  A Brief Bio

Professor Spotlight: Juliette Gorson A Brief Bio

Photo Courtesy of Juliette Gorson

Juliette Gorson is an assistant professor in the department of biology

Juliette Gorson, assistant professor of biology and a new addition to the university’s department, feels lucky to be at Hofstra for her first faculty position. 

“Getting a position in academia is very difficult after you finish your Ph.D., especially staying in the same area,” said Gorson. “A lot of people will get their Ph.D. in, say, California, and will apply for jobs all over the country, and then have to move to Maine because that’s the only place they’re able to get a job.”

Gorson has been in New York since she received her master’s in biology at Hofstra. Despite having only recently started here as a professor, Gorson already has roots in the biology department and infectious enthusiasm for the upcoming semester.

“I knew, of course, all of the faculty members here, I knew the type of research that was going on in the biology department and I kind of wanted to add to all the great things that were already here,” Gorson said. 

The experiences Gorson had at Hofstra were instrumental in her formative research experiences; she credits Peter Daniel, her advisor for her master’s and the current chair of the biology department, with giving her the opportunity to explore her interests.

“I actually got a grant to go collecting snails in Hawaii, and I brought the snails back to Hofstra,” she said. “That’s kind of what started my entire love of research. And that would have never been possible without Dr. Daniel kind of giving me that flexibility to say, ‘I don’t think you’ll really be able to get snails, but if you can get them, sure you can do research on them.’ And I was like, ‘Challenge accepted.’ And now I still do research on venomous snails.”

As a new faculty member, Gorson will be teaching introductory biology classes. But eventually, as she gets to create her own classes, she hopes to start teaching bioinformatics.

“Bioinformatics is my specialty,” she said. “It’s essentially computer science meets biology. That’s exactly how I got into this field.” 

Meanwhile, she is most looking forward to a freshman biology class that allows students to create their own hypothesis and research study. This is an opportunity that is not usually offered until students are much more experienced, perhaps not until they are in graduate school. Gorson sees this as an opportunity for the students to connect with biology on a personal level.

“They’re going to be doing research on copepods, which are tiny little animals that float around in the ocean. It’s a really neat way to get students doing actual science, being actual scientists for a semester. They’re really, really tiny animals; you can barely see them with the naked eye, you can really only see them under a microscope, so I know students are going to be super pissed off about using these animals, but I think it will actually be great,” Gorson said. 

“Students will get to see that scientists fail. Sometimes you kill an animal. Right? And when your study fails, you have to figure out what to do next. So not only will this be cool because the students are going to be scientists and they’re going to be creating their own hypotheses, but I think it will also be really good for them to learn that you can fail and you can move on from that failure, all in a biology lab.”

Gorson recognizes failure as an essential part of both science and life. At a recent ice cream social for freshmen, Gorson was able to connect to her new students through this concept. She told a group of biology students about getting a B-minus in freshman biology. She did not really fall in love with biology until later in college, and this inspired her to work hard and earn her Ph.D. 

“It’s OK if you don’t do well in your first semester. It doesn’t mean you can’t continue on as a biologist. It’s an important life lesson, school lesson, scientist lesson ... failure’s OK,” Gorson said. “You can always learn from failure. There’s only one place you can go from failure and that’s up.”

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