Her motto in life? Be generous. And pay it forward. Stevens said she learned this ethos from Barres, who recently passed away. “Our role is to train the next generation,” she says.
So, in addition to doing groundbreaking research that’s won her accolades like a MacArthur Fellowship and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, Stevens takes the time to expose young people to science by bringing them into her lab. “It’s so hard to say no to young students who want a chance,” she says. “My lab doubles in size in the summer. I love the idea that one summer in the lab could have a lasting impact.”
Her fervor for mentoring is matched by her intellectual audacity. When she started her lab at Boston Children’s Hospital to study microglia, in 2008, very little was known about their role in synapse development and function.
Stevens acknowledges it was a risky project to pin her future on. “But I felt I was onto something important and went full steam ahead,” she recalls. “There’s just something about being driven by your passion for something – saying, ‘we’re just going to go for it’ – knowing full well it might not work out.”
Yet her risk has paid off, and her lab is thriving – working toward what could one day be new treatments for Alzheimer’s. And Stevens is about to dive back into the thick of it, taking a year-long sabbatical from professional travel to get “back to the lab bench” that she loves so dearly.