Steven Kasparek (he/they), Grad Student (Year 2)
What is one project you’re excited about that you are working on in the lab right now?
I'm really excited about my Second Year Project, which I'm wrapping up at the moment. This project bridged my interests in clinical science, social psych, and social/affective neuroscience, and enabled me to explore new methods and literatures. It additionally challenged some of my thinking as the results were quite different than what we expected, but in really interesting ways. This project represents the beginning of a new branch of my research that I'm growing increasingly excited about!
What is something that you enjoy doing outside of work?
In this pandemic era, I have mostly enjoyed some leisure reading, cooking and baking (made my first loaves of bread!), and playing with my new kittens, Earl Grey and Chai. I also enjoy being outside on beaches or hiking on warm, sunny days, feeling the breeze and the sun on my skin and being present. I love traveling and exploring new places and ESPECIALLY new foods. I've learned though that I can enjoy just about anything with the right people though :)
What brought you to work here?
A lot of people have heard the adage, "research is me-search". My personal history and anecdotal experiences seeing kids from similarly tough early life circumstances follow different developmental paths made me curious about the inner workings that inform those divergent trajectories. I'm here in some ways to satiate that curiosity, and in doing so hope to learn a little about myself and make sense of my own life along the way. I'm also here because I have hope that the science we do can incentivize change at a broader societal level to positively impact the lives of young people who need advocacy and support.
What do you want to be when you “grow up”?
I want to be ... intentional. I want to live with intention and embody my values in my daily practice of living. I want to be a fierce advocate with more tools in my tool belt to effect lasting change. I want to be a mentor to as many people as I can. I want to be antiracist. I want to be curious and open.
What is something that you are personally working on improving (about yourself, about the world, about your community etc)?
I'm working on improving my self-accountability. Like many others I've thought to myself "I can't possible be racist, classist, sexist...etc.". What I'm learning is that context is important and that no one is innately any of these things, but that the choices we make, how we show up, and what we say or do or shy away from saying or doing in a given moment defines if we are upholding these systems or dismantling them. I'm working on catching myself more, challenging my own actions and ways of being in the world that uphold these oppressive policies and systems, and doing the work of listening, learning and turning inward to build lasting change in myself first.
What is something you have accomplished and are proud of outside of work?
I'm proud of myself for prioritizing my wellbeing more over this last year, getting into therapy, and doing some hard but really good emotional work on myself. I have felt very empowered to invest in my own wellbeing and take time each week to push back against so many of the false urgencies of day to day life. Revisiting, unpacking, and unlearning some of my own toxic cycles has been very healing.
Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what?
I don't know if it's hidden per se, but I'm a pretty good singer. I get shy singing for people I know more-so than large crowds, which may be counterintuitive to some people. I definitely think in another life (or maybe this one? who know!) I would be on Broadway or I may have even pursued a career in music.
Give us a snapshot of a moment of joy in your life.
It's a warm and sunny Saturday morning. My partner and I are walking to Bagelsaurus in Porter Square for breakfast and each of us is carrying one of our two cats in a cat backpack (and they're behaving). Afterwards we get iced lattes and stroll around, pointing out houses we both really like and thinking about some version of a life we could have with fewer cares. I feel like the entire weekend lies ahead with endless ways I can enjoy myself and time to be still. I feel present and grateful and capable of anything.
What has made you the proudest in your time in the lab?
The way Kate and the lab responded after the murder of George Floyd was big for me. I felt entirely distraught, fed up, angry, and deeply confused and hurt about the world, my place in the world, and how we might be able to achieve any positive and lasting progress toward race equity in this country/the world. I felt very encouraged by the lab's willingness to immediately shift our focus toward a collective adoption of antiracist policies and practices. I was really proud that we recognized the limitations of our own experiences and knowledge and brought in Novalia Collective to help us do that work more effectively and intentionally. Finally, I've been very proud to watch so many people in the lab grow and change before my eyes, and to see our lab culture become more intentional. The process is ongoing as it should be, but I'm really excited about where we are headed!
If you could be anything (outside from your current field) what would it be?
Hmmm. I'd say either a Broadway performer, a professional drag queen, or a politician. To be honest, I think these are all quite similar, ha!
What’s important to know about you?
I'm a really silly person! I love to laugh and make others laugh with me :)