Meet the Mentor: Karen Bottenfield, PhD
Gender Identity & Pronouns: Female – She/her/hers
Affinity Groups:  gFIRST
Race/Ethnicity and/or Nationality:  White/Caucasian
Languages:  English
Hometown:  Los Angeles, CA
Education: AA, BA Anthropology, MS Forensic Anthropology, PhD Anatomy & Neurobiology

Personal Facts/Hobbies:  Due to financial hardships and other obstacles, I never finished high school.  Despite this, I continued to follow my dream of becoming a scientist and educator.  I started by earning my GED when I was 19 years old and attending community college while juggling two jobs.  After earning my AA degree, I transferred to Eastern Washington University where I completed my BA in Anthropology.  Without a clear direction of where to go next, I took several years off from school to focus on work and study for the GRE exam. Once I finished the exam, I applied and was accepted into the Forensic Anthropology program at Boston University School of Medicine. This opportunity was a dream come true and I enthusiastically spent my time completing the required courses and thesis project.  Following the completion of my MS degree, I started the Anatomy and Neurobiology PhD program.  I was faced with some significant challenges during the start of my PhD, however, I kept my determination and soon found myself immersed in a new passion of neurobiology.  As a doctoral student, I investigated treatments for cortical brain injury, which included learning clinical, behavioral, and histological techniques.  I was also interested in novel methods to label and quantify newly synthesized myelin and optimized a new method using Click Chemistry.  Outside of my time in the lab, I took advantage of teaching fellowship opportunities in forensic pathology, anatomy, and medical neuroscience.

After the successful completion of my doctoral defense, I continued conducting research as a Postdoctoral Associate before accepting a position as a senior academic program manager.  Overall, I have been on the medical campus for over 11 years and have navigated many different aspects associated with being a graduate student.  In addition to my studies, I gave birth to my son during the first year of my master’s degree, went through a divorce during the first year of my PhD, and continued to raise my son as a single parent. I am also the first person in my immediate family to go to college.

I believe everyone should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, no matter their background or life experiences. I also recognize that there may be significant challenges that must be navigated to achieve those goals.  Specifically, I know first-hand that striving for an education as a first-generation student can be significantly more complex, often requiring additional hard work, determination, and problem-solving skills that not everyone can relate to.

I enjoy providing support and mentorship to GMS students.  If you need someone to talk to, need help finding resources, seeking advice, or just need someone to listen – I am here. Please feel free to reach out.