Olivia McKissick

How I got into science

I grew up in a house deep in the woods and lived just a stone's throw from the beaches of the Long Island Sound. I remember assembling my own "museum" on a large stump in my back yard with cool things I found in the forest and collecting different sea creatures in tidal pools. I liked to discover, identify, and observe. My parents, both people of science, encouraged my curiosity and helped me do my research before I could even read.

In elementary school, most of my sentences began with the word "actually" and ended with a long-winded explanation for the natural phenomena of our world. I loved learning and was constantly searching for more information.

I always loved my science classes the best. Every month, my future changed: meteorologist, chemist, astronomer; whatever subject we were studying at the time.

In high school I took my first biology class. The wonder of living systems always had the greatest hold on me, and now I had the in-depth instruction to get me hooked. When we reached the neural systems unit I found myself left wanting more. So when I took Psychology the next year and loved that, I decided to pursue Neuroscience in college to get my fix.

I'm glad my teenage brain was able to make that connection between psych and bio. I’ve been at Northeastern University a few years now and I've worked in a few labs with some great people and I love neuroscience more than I could have imagined. In my search for a specific niche in my field, I’ve switched my focus from basic biological psychology to neurodegeneration to, finally, the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders. I feel lucky to have always been encouraged in my passion for science and to have met and worked with so many great people who helped guide and develop my interests.

Non-science biography:

I LOVE MUSIC! For a brief moment in high school, between scientific aspirations, I wanted to be an opera singer and I always did the vocal groups and musicals. Beyond that, I can appreciate almost every genre, but you’ll most likely find me at someone’s basement show in Allston- I love the local bands here in Boston.

I LOVE ART! I swear I’m well rounded! I can and do spend entire days in museums or wandering the city taking photos. I think I understand modern and contemporary art? And although my hands were not made to create, I have a lot of friends who are amazing artists, so I get my fill supporting them.

I LOVE FOOD! I spend all of my money on food- I almost never cook… So that should probably say “I LOVE EATING!”, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.



The Pearl by John Steinbeck


She’s the Man


30 Rock, Criminal Minds


oldies, opera, and indie


Burritos, Sushi, most food


Sangria or Gin & Tonic


hiking, sailing, photography

Coffee, friend or foe:

friend til the end

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

I know I said I like most music, but I never have and never will like country music.

What I look for in a scientist

My favorite kind of scientist is enthusiastic about their own work and the work of others. After all, who else understands the ups and downs of being a scientist? It’s very important and exciting work we all are doing and I think we owe it to each other to pay attention and promote others who do good science.