This week, I am sharing with you an interview that covered a lot of terrain, from going through grad school with a disability, to the importance of networking during grad school and after, to the challenges of building a consultancy business based on your research. A great conversation with Stephanie Ryan, author of “Let’s Learn About Chemistry” an educational book for young children.

Woman smiling

Stephanie holds a PhD in Learning Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a focus on chemistry education. She has a strong background in chemistry and biology and enjoys applying her background to develop superior educational products. She is also interested in how mathematics and science intertwine. Stephanie has experience in curriculum development, assessment, and training staff on how to use technology and software. She has taught science in formal and informal settings from K-16 in the USA and has developed curricula for After School Matters programs in Chicago, Illinois.

You can purchase “Let’s Learn About Chemistry” at:

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How getting involved in research projects during your master’s can inform your subject matter choice later on
  • Challenges of going through graduate school with a disability and how to find support and move your project forward
  • How Stephanie embraced her limitations by being open about it and getting involved in advocacy initiatives
  • How attending conferences can open doors through networking and conversations with other researchers and also non-researchers
  • The importance of platforms like LinkedIn during the COVID pandemic
  • The process of launching and figuring out the ins and outs of  a consulting business out of your MSc or your PhD

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“It’s funny. I wouldn’t even say I like to network. I just… I understand its value. I’m an introvert and conferences drain me, and I love going to conferences with my friends who are also introverts where we sit in silence and recharge together, but it’s something that I’ve just practiced. It was something that… It’s one of those things I learned from my husband, from his field. I remember there was a speaker who came on campus and they were having a dinner, and they invited grad students to come to it. And I said no, and he couldn’t believe it. He was like “Are you serious? You’re missing this opportunity to speak with this person who like… what?” And he started explaining about networking to me, because I hadn’t really thought too much about it. I was taking it for granted the amount of networking I had already done, and now I make a point of it to make sure I’m networking and that I help grad students understand the importance of it.”

“My postdoc advisor and I sat down and we kind of talked about how I really like the product aspect of things, of having something at the end to make better and to get out there, so that I can see change, instead of finding the theoretical components of something. Because of all my networking and connections, I ended up going into assessment and writing standardized assessments for states, and becoming a content lead there, and learning more about project management, and managing stakeholders, and things like that. And I really liked it!”

Stephanie’s links: LinkedIn –; Twitter – @letslearnsci.

You might also like the following episodes:

Chris Humphrey – Career Counseling:

Cindy Hovington – Science-based Education:

Emily Roberts – Finance for PhDs:

Margaret Magdesian – Biotech Startup CEO:

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