We’re taking time over the following weeks to get to know the members of the GSA’s Early Career Scientist Committees. Join us every week to learn more about our early career scientist advocates.

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Thomas Clements
Policy Subcommittee Liaison
Rice University

Research Interest:

My work is focused on improving gene editing via the CRISPR-Cas9 system, which can make site-specific insertions or deletions in genes of interest to knock out their function. I am using a novel Cas9 fusion to increase the efficiency of gene knockouts and thus improve the system. I aim to use this Cas9 fusion to study genes implicated in the development of the blood-brain barrier and neural angiogenesis. By doing so, I hope to gain a broader understanding of mechanisms of initiation of diseases like glioblastoma and brain vasculature disease.

As a PhD-trained scientist, you have many career options. What two career paths interest you the most?

One of my passions is scientific literacy, and I see two career options with this at the center: public policy and education. Ideally, my career will have extensive overlap between the two. I want to teach and to be a part of educating the next generation and the voting public. I know not all of the students I encounter will pursue a career in science, but I want them to understand scientific principles and recognize pseudoscience. I also want to help scientists advocate for the important work they are doing. Because of my interests, I am looking for a non-research teaching opportunity in academia, an outreach opportunity in a nonprofit or private sector organization, or a public policy fellowship.

In addition to your research, how else do you want to advance the scientific enterprise?

I believe communication is one of the biggest issues facing scientists at this time. I want to combat the stigma that scientists are acting against the good of the public. I believe that increasing STEM participation across all backgrounds and raising scientific literacy in the general population will lead to increased scientific progress. I advocate this stance in my classroom. I want my students to understand that science is a tangible, ever-changing field, and they can be a part of it! Because of this, I strongly believe that we need to reach out to younger students to get them excited about what careers are possible through a degree in science.

As a leader within the Genetics Society of America, what do you hope to accomplish?

As part of my role on the policy subcommittee, I am helping develop resources and programming to aid other early career scientists in finding careers that align with their goals. We are working to combine various fellowship opportunities into a single platform, along with resources and tips to aid in the application process. Beyond this, I want to highlight careers in education, policy, and other areas beyond academic research. I hope to gain a better understanding of how culture informs our career aspirations and goals, so I am looking forward to learning more about the individual members of the GSA and the diversity of work they conduct.

Previous Leadership Experience:

  • Graduate Student Fellow – Rice University Center for Teaching Excellence
  • National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences
  • Graduate Student Association President – Rice University BioSciences Dept.
  • Summer HS Student Mentor – Rice University Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering