Women’s History Month: Breaking Away from the Mold to Establish Your Own Success Path

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month, celebrated in March that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. This year we celebrate the work and achievements of JBEI research scientist, Ee-Been Goh. A talented molecular biologist, Ee-Been has made significant contributions to the development of new biofuels at JBEI in the area of metabolic pathway for diesel-range methyl ketones. In addition to her impressive technical achievements, Ee-Been is widely recognized at JBEI as being an exemplary mentor and contributor to JBEI’s education and outreach efforts, namely to the iCLEM program.

Who has inspired you? And why?
Scientifically, I will have to say my undergraduate advisor, Prof. (Emeritus) Julian E. Davies. Even though he was a highly renowned professor in the field of antibiotic resistance research, he took a chance on me – someone who did not have the best grades or have any research experience and gave me my first opportunity at independent research. It was Julian’s mentorship that really inspired me to pursue a career in scientific research. Julian’s enthusiasm and passion in science was evident because regardless of whether I presented him with negative or positive results, it was always interesting to him. He taught me that if we process the information properly, you could always learn something from your experiments regardless of the outcome – an outlook that we can always use in science or life!

At a personal level, it would be my grandmother. From sunrise to sunset, she would constantly be working, doing house chores, baking something delicious for us, or sewing new clothes for us and never spending much time idle. What amazes me the most is that she would often put together an ingenious device or apparatus to expedite her work. She never had an education but it never stopped her from being creative or industrious. She instilled a strong working habit in me and taught me to always look to improve things in our lives.

Ee-Been Goh works with summer intern Joshua Borrajo (Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

What was your most proud moment? And why?
My most proud moment would be getting accepted into the Ph.D. program at UC Davis because I was not the best student in primary and secondary school (i.e. elementary and junior high). I was doing so badly that teachers had to call my parents to let them know of my struggles in school and even had tutors to help me pass my classes. Many people did not expect that I would go far with my education, so graduating from college was considered a miracle by my family. I surprised them when I decided to seek more education after college. Sometimes we can get pigeon-holed by who we are and where we came from and it felt like a major accomplishment on my part to be able to break away from that mold and establish my own path to success.

What do you do to mentor others?
I like to have students intern with me in the lab and give them an opportunity to experience lab research. My main goal is to try to have them learn as much as they can during their internship and not just assist me with my own research. That way they can find out for themselves if they are truly passionate about science and not be influenced by any other factors. More importantly, I try to set a good example by making sure that my positive work habits and attitude inspires the people (and especially women) around me.