Stepfanie Aguillon holding a (yellow shafted) Northern Flicker.
Stepfanie Aguillon holding a (yellow shafted) Northern Flicker. Photo provided by Stepfanie Aguillon.

Stepfanie Aguillon (@s_m_aguillon) is a biologist working on her PhD in genomics at Cornell University. She’s passionate about making science a more diverse and inclusive place, loves hanging out with her dog, and misses spending time in the desert. You can find more info about what she’s working on at

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Yes! I have an amazing doggo named Chiquita.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

I can’t think of any directly science-themed décor… but I do have a lot of nature-themed home décor (birds and plants mostly)

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

Spanish, but badly (still learning)

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

If I wasn’t a scientist, I would either open a bakery or be an accountant… which I know are two wildly different directions!

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Maybe engineering or chemistry…

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

I’d go visit my family in Arizona.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

I’d really like to be able to communicate with animals, as long as they’d be able to (1) understand me and (2) communicate back. Otherwise it would be cool to be able to transform into different animals!

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Orphan Black is one of my favorite shows—includes great acting, genetics, and human cloning!

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Spend time with my dog and binge watch movies/shows while working on cross stitch projects.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Family, sunshine, iPhone

15 What beverage gives you life?

Dr Pepper….

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

This would definitely have to be the Harry Potter series for me! I was growing up as the books were coming out, so they are a huge part of my life and are the reason I love to read.

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?

A Paleontologist

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

I’m really passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in STEM. I work really hard on a lot of fronts to make sure we can keep the talented scientists from underrepresented backgrounds in the field.

19 What got you excited in science?

Spending time with my grandpa as a kid watching nature documentaries and camping/fishing is really what got me into the field I am now.

20 What excites you about science now?

I’m a molecular biologist focused on genomics in birds. I think it’s really exciting to be able to use new tools (genomics) in systems that have a long history of study. It’s amazing to be able to discover new insights into something that has been studied so intensively in the past!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Ice cream, but I’m not actually that guilty about it

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I know a massive amount of Harry Potter trivia.

23 What is your favorite game?

Right now it’s Dungeons and Dragons (I’m part of an all women + non-binary campaign!).

24 What is the last book you read?

The last book I finished was Rose Under Fire (by Elizabeth Wein), and I’m currently reading The Girl With All the Gifts (by Mike Carey)

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice I’ve received was specifically about grad school, but I think applies in many situations: your life is not on hold while you’re in grad school. This is your life now! Don’t put off trying that thing (getting that dog, taking that exciting class, going on that trip, etc.) you’ve always wanted to try because you’re waiting to finish that project, or that class, or grad school.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

I’ve always wanted to get my motorcycle and/or pilot’s license. I wouldn’t say I’ve been too scared to do it, just haven’t had the money/opportunity yet!

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Find a physical activity that you love doing because that’s the only way you’ll ever stick to it!

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

I really enjoy cross-stitching (a type of embroidery) and do that while watching shows/movies to de-stress.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Hanna (TV show), Captain Marvel (movie)

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Not too weird for me honestly, but probably a dead bird to bring back to the museum.

31 What is your favorite animal?

My favorite individual animal is my dog, but I’d say my favorite *type* of animal are hummingbirds.

32 What is your favorite book?

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Ice cream

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

October 1st because it’s the start of my favorite month!

35 What is your favorite plant?

Saguaro cactus

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Woodpecker tongues wrap around their skulls!

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

The smell of the Sonoran Desert after a monsoon rain

39 What is your favorite sound?

I’m honestly not sure I have a favorite sound…

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I’m really good with colors and making things look aesthetically pleasing. It’s really helpful for making figures and posters, but also for painting a room or refinishing a bench!

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Can I say ice cream again?

42 What is your proudest moment?

Being chosen as the Outstanding Senior from my department when I graduated with my undergraduate degree.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Sequoia because I’d like to be the tallest thing around for once

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Lots of water!

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I have multiple tattoos—one of which I got while being filmed for a short documentary.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Natalie Hofmeister (@nathofme)