An interview with Gregory Youdan

Name: Gregory Youdan Jr.

Current Job: PhD Student/ Lab Manager of Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory

Scientific Discipline/Field: Kinesiology – Movement Science

Country: USA

Pick some letters (L,G,B,T,Q,+, etc.): G

Website: http://www.gregoryyoudan.com

Twitter or other social media handle: @GregYoudan

What does your job involve?

I am currently conducting research on assessments and interventions for individuals with neurological diseases and disorders, including Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. I am particularly interested in the neuromechanics of human walking. I make use of wearable technology to assess and monitor human movement in hopes of developing digital biomarkers for neurodegenerative populations. I also work on the application of data science techniques to human movement research, specifically data collected from wearable sensors.

How did you get to this job (education etc.)?

I began as a professional modern dancer in NYC and spent much of my dance career working with Heidi Latsky Dance, a physically integrated dance company. Through this work, I was exposed to a variety of different bodies and movement impairments and began to question how the brain and the body coordinate to produced skilled movement. Especially, when a neurological impairment affects that coordination. This question entranced me so much that I chose a career change towards becoming a movement scientist. I enrolled in the Masters of Arts program at Teachers College, Columbia University and subsequently the PhD in Kinesiology. Along the way, I decided to simultaneously pursue an MS in Applied Statistics to help my research – Because why not?! Dancers can be scientists and statisticians, too!

Do you feel being LGBT has affected your career decisions?

Being a gay dancer may have been a bit of a cliché , but I wouldn’t have given up my dance career for anything – LGBT or not. Transitioning to a career in science was not spurred by being gay but by my curiosity in human movement. I have been in a committed relationship for 12 years. This affected my decision on where to study and research because I wanted to stay close to my partner.

Have you had any reactions from colleagues about being LGBT, either good or bad?

In the scientific and academic communities, support has been mainly positive. I have always been out and open with my peers and mentors. However, most of this time has been spent in New York City, a city with a vibrant LGBT community. I recently met with an alum who was instrumental in starting the first LGBT student group in the late 1980s at Teachers College, Columbia University with much opposition. I am aware that we are in a more open time, but I strongly believe we must maintain our visibility.

Did you have any role models growing up (LGBT, STEM, totally unrelated.)?

Growing up, my passion was dance which extended into human movement and kinesiology. I was lucky enough to have great LGBT role models at Hofstra University in Lance Westergard and Dr. David Powell. Both were instrumental in me receiving the Mildred Elizabeth McGinnis Scholarship which went to one LGBT student at Hofstra and allowed me to continue my studies. In Dance, there are too many LGBT role models to mention. My biggest STEM mentor and role model is, my PI and academic advisor, Dr. Lori Quinn. She not only has developed my scientific skillset but has allowed me to believe in myself.

What are your plans for the future?

My hopes are to continue in research – working with wearable technology to study and improve movement in people with neurodegenerative populations.

Anything else you’d like to add?

As a first-generation Latinx LGBT PhD student, I strongly believe that representation in STEM matters, be it LGBT or as a Latino. I am proud to not only share my story but to be an out member of this community. “Si, se puede!”

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