Few people venture to start a PhD program; Lindsey Fitzsimons has done it twice. After finding her way into the sciences from art, she earned a master’s degree then began a PhD program at the University of Southern California. Life had other plans. Lindsey found herself needing to return to the East Coast, giving her two choices: start over or scrap her PhD plans. “Anyone in academia would cringe just thinking about starting over, but it was something I had to do,” she says.
Lindsey doesn’t shy from a challenge. In the midst of her new PhD program, at the University of Maine, she gave birth to son James, now 19 months—an undertaking historically understood to limit women from pursuing scientific research careers. “People assume you’re less serious or ambitious about your career,” she notes. “But I would argue the exact opposite. Motherhood forces multitasking, and challenges you to prioritize your time with little wiggle room.” Case in point: Lindsey’s typical day begins at 3:30 a.m.; by the time she reaches her research lab, where she examines cardiac cells as part of her research focused on congenital heart disease, she’s already done more than many do in a full day.
Lindsey credits her supportive family and her incredible mentors—including her mother, a psychologist who herself earned a PhD, and her grandmother—with blazing a trail that made her own easier to follow. “I recently learned my grandmother had earned a degree in biology at Skidmore, where I studied, and worked in a histology lab at Harvard,” she says. “But like many women at the time, she’d given up a career to have children.”
Lindsey’s ability to have both drives her dedication to encouraging other women, and inspires her to share the creative, approachable side of science through @laf_in_the_lab. Showing that science and style can complement is just one piece of the mission. “It used to be that women weren’t taken as seriously if they looked too ‘fashion,’” she says. “But that’s changing, and I believe if you look good, you feel confident, which ultimately projects the best kind of professionalism.”
“That’s why I wear my Dudley Stephens pieces to the lab all the time. They have everything you need—fashion, function and flattering cuts—to feel empowered.”