March is Women’s History Month, a time when women who have challenged—and continue to challenge—traditional roles are celebrated. In the final installment of our series, we introduce you to APS member Christina McManus, PhD, an associate professor of physiology at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. (Read part one, part two, part three and part four).
What is your title/role?
I am an associate professor of physiology at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM).
What is your area of research?
My clinical research includes studying the changes in biomarkers (indicators of the presence of disease) in patients with chronic back pain who receive osteopathic manipulative therapy.
My medical educational research includes hosting a “Women in Science” camp designed to encourage and educate middle and high school girls about science-related careers. We evaluate the girls’ interest in science careers before and after they attend.
How did you become interested in science? Were there women scientists who influenced you or whom you admired?
I always had an interest in science in middle and high school. I grew up in a small town and didn’t know any women in science-related careers other than nurses. When I went to college at the University of South Alabama, I took an honors research class and met some fascinating women researchers. Being around a group of successful, confident and intelligent women—of diverse ages and backgrounds—made a huge impact on me.
What do you like most about your job?
I like teaching physiology and making a hard concept easy and medically relevant to medical school students. I have a great passion for our outreach programs at ACOM, such as the “Women in Science” camp. More than 125 girls participate [in the camp]. It brings me much joy to provide them with the experience and exposure that I lacked as a kid.
What are your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenge is always finding a new and exciting way to teach science to kids of all ages and backgrounds.
What do you see as the main barriers to having more women in STEM?
The biggest barrier in my opinion is that young women may not know anyone in a STEM field, and most of these jobs are held by men. Therefore, they don’t see how a woman can be successful in the sciences.
What would you say to young girls with an interest in science/physiology? How would you encourage them to pursue their studies?
I would encourage them to never limit themselves, and be anyone they want to be. [They should] reach out to as many women as they can in this field [as mentors]. They will be amazed at the possibilities for women in STEM if they search hard enough.