Meet my pal, Martine. She suggested SciCheer start writing about scientists-turned-athletes. A firm believer in the motto “she who dreams it, does it,” I asked Martine to interview a scientist of her choice. Here’s her debut.
Hi folks. My name is Martine. I’m a scientist. Born and bred. I’ve been reading the Science Cheerleader’s blog about inspiring young athletic women to become scientists, and what I’ve been noticing is that there is no advice for scientists who would like to become athletes.
As we know, scientists are a pale, nerdy bunch who don’t often see the light of day. They are socially inept, their ‘jokes’ often hit a wall of eye rolls, or worse yet, silence, and the only exercise they get is pushing the button on the top of a micro-pipette. This is what I have thought until I started meeting some of the most kick-ass athletes that I know. It turns out that science is actually a very passionate field that leads its lovers to pursue other passions, not the least of which is athletics.
With that in mind, I would like you to meet Tresa Copes. You might know Ms. Copes from such resplendent documentaries as “Grey Matter” from the Philadelphia College of Physicians or from your local boxing ring. When she is done educating young children in science for the day, she heads to the gym where she literally gets her fight on.
In order to see what makes Tresa tick, I invited her to dinner with an engineer, a neuroscientist, and me (an evolutionary biologist turned city planner) so that we could engage in some cross-discipline conversation.
Q: How did you get interested in science?
A: My parents had told me to go to school for art so I that I could get a job, so I did, only to find out when I graduated that I shouldn’t have listened to my parents. So, I went back to school for a degree in Biomedical Engineering and found out that I LOVE science. While I was pursuing my degree, I worked at Drexel’s College of medicine in the Biochemistry/Microbiology Department. I researched HBV and worked with liver cells and DNA cloning.
Q: Tell me about your sport of choice.
A: Muay Thai is a hard martial art from Thailand. Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science Of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in Western boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in sport-oriented martial arts.
Q: What do you do for the College of Physicians?
A: We educate. We use foundation money to get high school students caught up to speed in their sciences before attending medical school. Some of them have trouble speaking and reading, but we train them for a future in science. I enjoy what I do, but I would like to get back into a lab setting.
Q: What are your scientific goals?
A: I would like to return to research to follow up on my work from Drexel. I also plan to continue to educate and challenge myself because thing change quickly in science. People who succeed in their scientific careers are those who continue to learn throughout their lives.
Q: What are your athletic goals?
A: I’ll be participating in my first ‘smoker’ in several months. I’m already nervous. You guys can come watch! A ‘smoker’ is a match between 2 athletes. In this case, there is no protection aside from gloves.
Q: What advice would you give to scientists wishing to be athletes?
A: Just plain old go for it. The more well rounded you are as a person, the more interesting life can be and an interesting life is a fun life.
Good luck, Tresa. You literally kick ass.

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