“You’re too pretty to be a scientist.”
“I can’t believe you’re a scientist.”
“You’re that smart?”
These are the types of comments Dr. Allie Folcik started to receive as she pursued her PhD. Now, she has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a minor in sustainability, has a PhD in toxicology and is a year into her job as an environmental consultant.
As an environmental consultant, Allie likes that each day is different. In her position, Allie serves as an expert on different topics for clients who often seek out consulting for environmental contaminations or litigation issues related to contamination. She is able to research various topics within the field, develop expert opinions on different projects and design plans for further investigation of contaminations for clients.
However, even as she pursued her PhD, she did not want to suppress her passion for fashion. So, around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Allie started a blog during her third year of her graduate program with the goal of combining science with fashion. Although she faced some judgment and difficulty with putting herself in the public eye, Allie has gained confidence and opportunities through the blog. She aims to inspire others to embrace multiple passions, no matter how incompatible they seem.
“The hope was that I would respond to some of the comments I had gotten over the years that revolve around, ‘You don’t look like a scientist’ or ‘Scientists are old men in lab coats,’ and so I started The Pretty PhD blog where I could share my love of fashion with my love of science,” Allie says.
Through her blog, Allie hopes to bring her two worlds together. She hopes to show scientists that they can have interests beyond the scientific field, and she aims to help people interested in fashion better understand science and how it is involved in their lives.
In both her role as a consultant and as a blogger, Allie hopes to continue to become more involved in creating a more sustainable future. Right now, Allie highlights emerging contaminants — PFAS and algal toxins, for example — and science-based target setting in sustainability as major areas of research.
“Something I’m really passionate about and trying to get more involved with is: how do we, on the science side, consult companies to become more sustainable in a way that is actually sustainable?” Allie says. “How do they reduce the actual greenhouse gas emissions in their production process and their shipping? How do we try to make products cleaner before we even produce them so we don’t have to clean it up later?”
Allie has found that she can push sustainability through her blog as well as in her role as a consultant. For example, since she is currently planning her wedding, she recently found a company that advertised sustainable practices while looking for bridesmaid dresses. Allie was able to use her scientific background to have a constructive conversation with a member of the company about their practices and how to achieve more sustainability. Now, Allie is inspired to focus more on sharing sustainable brands in fashion on her blog.
However, Allie has had to readjust her time management now that she has both a full-time consulting job as well as her blog, which can be difficult to balance.
“I’m still trying to figure out the transition,” Allie says. “It’s been a year since I finished my PhD, and now being in a nine-to-five job, you don’t have that same flexibility, so it’s all about figuring out how I can still produce content that’s useful for people but also not burn myself out.”
Allie encourages other women to try multiple things like she did to discover their true passions and to focus on improving themselves.
“There are no set guidelines for who you can be or what you can do or what you can have interest in,” Allie says. “I want to show people that you can be both.”
See what Allie is up to by following her on Instagram @theprettyphdblog!