Alumnae/i Feature

Monica Alves '16 on Her Path to Studying Aquaculture

Monica tells us how her time at Simmons and King's College London helped her on her career path.


Tell us a little bit about your background.

I graduated from Simmons in 2016 with a degree in environmental science. A large portion of my time at Simmons was spent in Professor Abate's zebrafish lab, where I studied the visual reactivity of larvae to novel visual cues. When not in lab, I would spend my time observing Boston's connection to its two major water bodies, the Charles and Muddy River. The conjunction of these two experiences lead to my interest in both water science and our relationship with this resource. This interest ignited into an academic aspiration during my senior year, leading me to pursue a master's degree in water science and governance at King's College London.

After my stint in academia, I chose to steer my career into the physical sciences. This led me back to Longwood to both Boston Children's Hospital and eventually Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where I continue to work with zebrafish as an aquaculturist in Thomas Look's Lab.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment up until this point in your career, life, or education?

My "aha" moment came to me after I graduated from King's College and moved back to Boston. This point of my life was filled with uncertainty. I had just come back from living abroad, where much of my time was either spent in a classroom or traveling for field research. My studies at this time defined who I was, and when it ended I was faced with the realization that I had to establish my own path outside of curriculum! This took work, and after sometime I realized that all the effort I put into research had to be shifted into not only finding a job, but also reconnecting with myself, other interests, and my home, Boston. 

What is your “one word” to describe Simmons and why?

Interpersonal. Simmons has a uniquely small and diverse community. This allows for a more connected environment with both professors and peers. To this day, I still seek career guidance from professors and maintain friendships that will last a lifetime!

Was there ever a time that you believed this was not the right path for you? 

I had a moment in graduate school where I felt lost and frustrated. I had quickly developed a case of imposter syndrome. This caused me to feel that no matter how much I dove into my studies that I would never be able shake the feeling that my acceptance into King's came from luck. I was stuck in my head, and because of this I lost passion and subsequently my path.

I challenged with way thinking by taking a step back from the academic pressure I was putting my on myself. I would leave my dorm and explore London. I let the architecture, the Thames River, and the people I passed fill my thoughts. I opened myself to the world, and without explanation it gave me back an assurance that I was in graduate school because I deserved to be, not just by a stroke of luck. 

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self to get to this point?

I would tell my first year Simmons self, “Take more time for yourself!” There’s often a guilt associated with canceling plans and spending a night alone, but that’s sometimes the best way to recharge. It’s easy to make school and work your whole life, making it even more crucial to take time out of your schedule to focus on yourself. This focus will allow you to be the best version of yourself.

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