Our fourth ambassador is Dr. Yewande Pearse, neuroscientist.
What brought you to LA?
I moved to LA for work. I was really lucky, actually. I had barely finished my Ph.D. and got the opportunity to do a research project working on stem cell therapy to treat a rare childhood brain disorder called Sanfilippo syndrome. It’s a long story, but it felt like serendipity, the timing was perfect. I came to Los Angeles on an extended holiday with friends, just after handing in my thesis. My professor had told me about a lab here that was doing the kind of work that I had been doing. In between falling madly involve with LA, I reached out to them and managed to arrange a meeting. The day I landed back in London, I got an e-mail telling me that funding had been secured and they’d like to offer me a position as a postdoc. It felt so serendipitous. I had to say yes!
How did you get into neuroscience?
It wasn't entirely intentional, to be honest. I've always been fascinated with the human body, and kind of just worked my way up from the feet! It wasn't until the final year of my Undergrad at King's College London that I discovered how cool the brain was. I did a module on how the brain develops and was hooked. From there, I decided to do a Masters in Neuroscience and then found my niche - understanding brain diseases and figuring out ways to fix them. I spent a couple of years after my Masters working on Huntington's disease research and then applied to do a Ph.D. on a similar childhood disease to the one I'm working on now. It's a cool project. The disease is called Sanfilippo syndrome and it is caused by a genetic mutation, which causes junk to build up in brain cells. We are trying to find ways to take human skin cells from patients, reprogram them back into stem cells, correct them using genetic engineering, then turn them into neural stem cells. Basically, we are repurposing a dysfunctional skin cell into a fully functional immature brain cells that can develop into adult brain cells, and compensate for the ones that don’t work properly.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
My job involves planning and conducting experiments in a lab so it is very practical. I spend more time standing than sitting. Every day is different because you never know, which direction an experiment will take you in. When I'm growing cells, I have to keep them alive so my day usually starts with me feeding them or making sure they don’t over-grow. But the rest just depends, most experiments involve lots of steps and take days, weeks, or even months. This means that what I do each day depends on where I’m at in the experiment. One day I could be slicing up brain tissue all day, the next, I could be growing bacteria.
Tell us more about your podcast? We are intrigued by the Science x Music combination.
For years, my love of science was completely separate from my personal life, which was full of art and music. But, something about being in Los Angeles inspired me to bring those worlds together. I have always felt comfortable in the arts, so I use music, art, and writing to share with people what I know. I believe that it’s important to communicate it in a way that doesn’t isolate people but instead invites them to join the conversation. My show Sound Science on Dublab Radio is all about that. It’s a monthly 1-hour show (also available as a podcast) about the science stories that affect our lives and have in some way influenced music. The music I play on the show is super eclectic, so there’s usually something for everyone, and I’ve been really fortunate to have some of the most knowledgable people in the field guest on the show. You can catch it 9 - 10 AM PST every first Monday of the month.
Which 3 songs are on repeat for you right now?
Like everyone, I've been struggling to deal with COVID-19 but I'm finding solace in music. I don’t know about 3 specific songs, but I’ve definitely been revisiting some of my favorite albums. For example, Frank Ocean’s 'Channel Orange', basically all of Erykah Badu’s albums and A Tribe Called Quest’s, 'The Love Movement'. This week, I’ve been listening to a 12-hour spiritual jazz mix my friend sent me, Tatsuro Yamashita's 'For You' album from 1982, and french music from the 60s. The best music I’ve listened to all week though was a live DJ Spinna set to honor Prince. He went for hours! I’m a big Prince fan, and he actually passed away the day I passed my Ph.D. defense - it was 5 hours long and I remember coming out to all these texts. Heartbreaking!
How would you describe your sense of style?
My sense of style is a little bit like my taste in music - It changes depending on where I am in life (sometimes even time of the day/week) and I like to wear more than one style at once. Sometimes I look like I’ve fallen into a bin at the back of a thrift store… in the 90’s, sometimes I look like I’m just off to a rave, sometimes I’m super feminine - long flowy dresses but with trainers or boots. And sometimes I colour block with bright colors. For the shoot, I’d say I was feeling California-vintage that day. Generally though, I’d say lively, bright and easy.
Who most inspires you creatively?
Probably my friends because I get to see their processes first hand and I see who they in what they create. With famous people, you see the end result. It’s the journey and the personal signature that inspires me.
What inspires you on a day to day basis and why?
Probably knowledge, I’m sort of addicted to discovering and learning new things, or ways of being.
What does craftsmanship mean to you whether it be within the fashion, music or art world?
Good craftsmanship has a lot to do with sustainability, simplicity and comfort. I guess that’s why I appreciate vintage - things were made to last, and the designs were clean and uncomplicated. When it comes to clothing specifically, I also get a lot of pleasure out of a delicious combination of unexpected colours, when the tones are just right. For example, a bright red and a sunset orange or burgundy and pink. Lime green and red is so nice too.
Do you have a style icon?
I like it when people look like themselves. I have friends with the most incredible style. They’re all so different, but all look great in a way that no one else could pull off because it’s them. In terms of famous people, I think Naomi Shimada has the most gorgeous style, I can relate to it in a massive way because she likes colors and puts them together in an interesting way. Issea Rae’s character uses patterns and colors in an amazing way in Season 4 of Insecure. And I like Alia Shawkat’s style too because you can’t put your finger on it, but it makes sense for her.
What is your insider tip for vintage shopping?
I love thrifting. I do get "treasure hunting" fatigue though, so my tip is to keep a mental list of what you are looking for. I try to look and not touch (especially in the larger shops). When you try to finger through every item on a rack, it can get really exhausting, really quickly. If you see a print that is obviously not for you, don't bother touching it. Save your energy for colors, fabrics, and designs that you are actually interested in - think back to your list! Right now, for example, I'm looking for pinks and oranges and browns in silks and soft cottons and I need trousers, not skirts. Like everything, it's good to stay open though - I once found the most amazing embroidered jacket in Goodwill covered in cowboys and horses within 10 minutes of being there and that was definitely not on my list! I guess you have to mix up your missions. Sometimes I will just pop into my favorite Goodwill for 10 minutes on my way home to see if there are any good treats for me like the cowboy jacket. Sometimes, I plan to intentionally go vintage shopping to find something I need.
What is your favorite Primeboots style and why?
I like the clunky but round style of the Frida boot in black calf. The joy is in the details - you can tell a lot of thought has been put into the construction. The leather feels really comfortable - unbelievably soft, but you feel really supported in them. The Darcy laces in beige are really fun too!