30 Days of Women: Bertha Vandegrift

Bertha Vandegrift


Bertha is hands down one of the most original, loving, spontaneous and amazing spirit that's ever crossed my path.

She stormed into my life at a dinner party and has stolen a piece of my heart ever since.

She goes out of her way to keep those she loves as happy as she can. Constantly going above and beyond.

I can honestly say that i'm incredibly lucky to call her a friend and wouldn't know where id be without her.

Here's to you Bertha?-Flow

How old are you & where you from?

27 years old. I was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but I spent most of my childhood in El Paso, Texas

What do you do for a living?

Scientist!!!  I'm getting my PhD in Physiology & Biophysics. I'm studying the way estrogen modulates the rewarding & reinforcing properties of alcohol in females. It's an exciting field because most of the work in my specific field has been established in males, so I am excited to further our understanding of the female brain.

What do your parents do?

My father is a physicist. Currently my mother is a housewife extraordinaire. She's done a lot with her life before that. Most people don't believe me when I tell them about her incredible past.

Them being so talented did they cast a big shadow?

My parents never had any expectations for me other than happiness. They also have supported me in every thing. They helped me through college when we were all struggling with money because they knew that's where my heart was.What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I have always wanted to be a scientist. I played in my father's lab all my life. My mother was very much into botany so I was surrounded by science, nature, and curiosity.

Do you play any instruments

Growing up I played the violin poorly. Now, every time I go to one of my sister's house, she forces me to play a random instrument with her. Often times it's something I've never even heard of. Other than that, I don't really play anything these days.

When did you decide you wanted to be a scientist.

When I was a wee lil' baby, I told people I wants to push buttons when I grew up. I really meant being a scientist, but I didn't know the word for it yet.

What's the most difficult thing about being a woman in your field

For me personally its terrifying to think about when I can start a family. A scientist's work is difficult with many long days and nights in the lab. Some strong women have babies while in graduate school, and they work (sometimes in potentially dangerous environments) literally until they go into labor. 

Are there any other women doing what you do? 

Yes! I truly believe that women are taking over my field (muahahaha). It hasn't always been like this. It used to be male-dominated for sure. Although the amount of women are increasing, more men are in higher positions than us ladies.

What's your daily life like when not being a scientist? 

I'm a proud rottweiler puppy mother. I love surrounding myself with people who I have little in common with. I love crashing parties and events. I enjoy last minute random travels. Most of all, I love getting a ton of sleep at night. 

Do you all hang out together?

Yes!!! My lab has a few parties a year. They are crazy and fun. There's also a group of female scientists that I hang out with. It's amazing to drink with brilliant girls. There's never any gossip or pettiness. It's all brilliant and often philosophical. What inspires you to keep going daily?

-Who inspires you?

My work inspires me the most. I've become in love with my projects. It's exciting to be discovering novel things just for the sake of knowledge.  Everyone inspires me. Everyone I know has something in their life that gives them a sparkle in their eye. I love that.

What's a common misconception people have about working in your field?

One thing that irks me is that people will hear that a lab has "cured" this and that with xyz. It's never that simple. Sometimes it's a simplified model that might not translate into humans or one of many other explanations.

How do you feel working in a male dominated field?

I love it! It pushes me to work harder and it makes me cherish my female colleagues dearly.

How do you maintain your sanity talking to men who challenge your intelligence?

I don't maintain any kind of sanity... I'm losing it!! I love being challenged if the person is coming forward with a good heart, solid reasoning, and can make a good argument. A lively discussion can lead to a lot of insight if both parties have open minds. If that is not the case, I just walk away.

Does being a strong woman scare off men in your day to day?

I hope not!! I try to remain humble and forgiving to the ones I love.

Who is someone in your life that regularly keeps you going? 

My grandmother. She was a strong woman who taught me to be daring, question everything, and drink wine. She just passed away after a very fulfilling life. I was so lucky to have been given her name, so I'm trying to live my life in her honor.

What's a day in the life of Bertha look like?

I start every day with rottweiler cuddles. When I finally get out of bed I try to convince the dog to run with me, but we spend the majority of our "run" squealing in excitement whenever we see cute puppies.Then I go to work to do my science thing. I try to work out and meditate daily. On the weekends I usually hang out with my ladies (I've been known to get into trouble) and work in coffee shops.  

Last 5 songs you played?

Walk on the Wild Side - Lou Reed

Iko, Iko - The Dixie Cups

Queen of the World - Lloyd and Claudette

River - Ibeyi

Gooey - Glass AnimalsLast event your went to

A cabaret show in Jamaica.

Last time you cried so hard it hurt

My disposable camera broke. I was drunk and had taken some spectacular pictures on it.