Monika Shpokayte

How I got into science

My parents nourished my curiosity for life and science. As a kid my dad took me take me out on fishing trips where he taught me the anatomy of animals like fish, crabs, and worms. I owe a great deal of my career to my parents who always pushed me to study the sciences even when I was down on my luck.

In college, I initially started as a Pre-Med student (big mistake). I found that my thinking process was different; I was far more interested in asking the question of why and what if? I became interested in neuroscience and how the brain works. I began working for Dr. Jeff Beeler at CUNY Queens College. Jeff really inspired me to pursue the research path; he was instrumental to my training. In his lab my work focused on the VTA and optogenetics/chemogenetics. After graduation, I decided to take some time before committing to a PhD program.

I moved from New York to Boston. Here, I started a job at Biogen IDEC for the vivo-pharmacology group. At the same time, I started a master's degree in Biology at Harvard University, where I first met Dr. Steve Ramirez. Meeting Steve changed my entire path and outlook on science. He was my master's thesis advisor. After working full days at Biogen, I made my way to Harvard’s NorthWest Labs to run animal experiments until late in the evening. Fast forward a year later, Steve became a faculty member at Boston University, and I followed along. I joined the lab as a research technician.

This was the best decision I have ever made. I am currently a graduate student in the lab. That’s right, not only did I do my masters with Steve, but I stayed to complete my PhD as well though GPN. It is through Steve’s guided care that I found a place of belonging through a deep sense of community that is fostered by the lab and BU.

Non-science biography:

I was born in Lithuania; my family and I immigrated to the US when I was 2 years old. We settled in Queens, New York and my family still lives there. We immigrated to the US for better opportunities for my sister and I; I am the first of my generation to pursue a doctorate.

I have now lived in Boston for the last 5 years. I have come to love this city and I’m happy to call it home. I am a proud dog mom to a sweet old chihuahua named Bruce. I adopted Bruce 2 years ago and have never looked back. He’s the lab dog and makes occasional visits to say hello!

I am also a HUGE lover of plants. My room looks like a jungle. My most recent addition and honestly, a splurge, is a rare Thai Constellation monstera. She is my current pride and joy along with my fiddle leaf figs and lemon tree.



Harry Potter series


inglorious bastards or any of the marvel movies


Parks and Rec


Tops 40s


lobster ravioli


a London fog or an espresso martini


cooking for friends and family

Coffee, friend or foe:

BBF, can’t function without

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

I think a taco is a sandwich, feel free to debate me on this.

What I look for in a scientist

curiosity, dedication, passion, and kindness