Heloise LeBlanc

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How I got into Science

My passion for the sciences, particularly the health sciences, reflects a long decision process marked by familial influences, life experience and self-driven choices. I was raised in a scientific family. My father practiced veterinary medicine before getting a PhD and becoming a researcher. My mother gave birth and raised two children while getting through medical training. Their greatest gift was to show us how hard work, resilience, passion and compassion were key to personal success. My parents often reminisce on how they would study with me on their lap, recounting tales of strange pathologies to calm me down.

However, my first true encounter with the sciences was when I was around 5. My father would take me on veterinary emergencies or dress me up as a surgeon to observe procedures on small animals. He would also take all opportunities to drive us to see my mother during never-ending shifts at the hospital. Family dinners revolved around the usual “how was your day” and numerous accounts of intricate or painful cases from my parents. 

Listening to their numerous medical stories, I always wondered how I would react to a true medical emergency. One night when I was 11, my dad went into anaphylactic shock at home. My mom was in a plane and couldn’t be reached. I still clearly remember my dad’s labored breathing as he came crawling into my room for help. I rushed downstairs, grabbed an epi-pen and jabbed it into his thigh before calling an ambulance. This experience left me with a strange thrilling sensation admixed with a self-realization of the immense responsibilities of being trusted with someone’s life.

From then on, I was almost set in my vocational calling in the sciences. I applied and entered the Accelerated Seven Year Medical Program at Boston University, a path that will lead me straight into the Boston University Medical School after three years of undergraduate study.  In addition, during the summers between high school and college, as well as after my first year in college, I pursued opportunities to shadow doctors at UC Irvine such as neuro-oncologists and neuro-ophthalmologists. I witnessed the immense passion of health professionals working with terminally ill patients such as those with glioblastomas, and realized the vast complexities of the brain that we still don’t completely understand. Even with so many brilliant scientists around the world and countless years of research, the mysteries of the brain are still being uncovered today. Steve’s lab is making immense strides in determining some of the brain’s under workings, and his team’s work keeps me excited for what there is left to learn, and what I may be able to discover through scientific inquiry.

Non-Science Biography

I have been swimming competitively since I was around 7 years of age. I swam for a club team from elementary school all the way to my senior year of high school, and even participated in high school swimming at the same time for those four years. I was then recruited to swim for Boston University’s varsity team, which I did for my first year before deciding to focus on my studies and this research opportunity. I love it and hope to continue swimming for fun the rest of my life.

I also love photography, especially of people. I took classes in high school that were so much fun that whenever I got the chance, I would coerce my family into going places so I could take portrait pictures of them. Honestly though, I love any type of photography, from pictures of my food at fancy restaurants, to pretty sunset pictures in my hometown of San Diego.

Favorite…
Book: Plato’s Republic
Movie: Avatar (I lost count how many times I’ve seen it, probably around a dozen?) or Inception
Show: House M.D.
Music: Honestly anything but heavy metal and country
Food: Sushi and pasta are tied
Drink: Cold Brew (I have one from Starbucks every day)
Activity: Open water swimming
Coffee friend or foe: My favorite drink answers that one

One thing I’m sorry I’m not sorry about
I love looking at wedding dresses online and watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’

What I look for in a scientist
Anyone that shares the same excitement as me for discovery and science in general. I love how science brings individuals together into a big family like I have experienced in Steve’s lab. I can tell that everyone just loves what they do and are excited for what they might discover through their scientific curiosity. You can tell when people have a true passion for science, and I just love getting that feeling from people I work with on a daily basis.