Scientist in lab

Biology professor beats odds

'I am a statistical anomaly'

March 29, 2018
City Stories

Annika Mosier, PhD, grew up in a part of Oregon where there are more farmers and loggers than scientists – but that didn’t stop her from becoming assistant professor of integrative biology at CU Denver, with her own lab and nearly two dozen publications to her name.

Before joining the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences faculty in 2014, Mosier’s career in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) took her from the Willamette Valley to Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

In CU Denver’s Department of Integrative Biology, Mosier works to promote diversity in science and education, giving female students, minority students and others who might be struggling the same support that fueled her success.

How she became a biologist

Annika Mosier, PhD
Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology Annika Mosier, PhD, feels that being a woman in STEM gives her increased perspective and empathy for other diverse populations.

As a kid from a low-income, single-parent family in a rural area, Mosier didn’t have a lot of higher education know-how or resources. Mentors in high school and college gave her the boost she needed to become a first-generation four-year college graduate – and ultimately, a biologist and published researcher.

“I didn’t know what I was capable of achieving,” she said. “Without extra support from a team of mentors guiding and encouraging me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

When Mosier began looking for faculty positions in environmental microbiology with a balance of both research and teaching, she found CU Denver. She enjoys the dynamic opportunities of its urban location, which enables her current research on pollution in waterways throughout the city.

“CU Denver is very integrated into the city and local community,” she said. “It’s a really vital environment, with energy and excitement.”

What it’s like being a woman in STEM

“Challenging” is the word Mosier used to describe working in an academic STEM career.

“Women are underrepresented in STEM faculty positions, and the numbers are even worse for moms in STEM,” said the mother of two. “The biggest difficulty comes in balancing a demanding job with family commitments. But the job is exceptionally fulfilling given the opportunities to contribute to scientific research and mentor and train students.”

She feels that being a woman in STEM gives her increased perspective and empathy for other diverse populations.

“I appreciate being a role model to students, to help them achieve their dreams of pursuing a career in science, regardless of their background or challenges that stand in their way,” she said.

Why she loves CU Denver students

One of Mosier’s favorite things about CU Denver is its diverse student body.

“I just love the students, both in my classes and lab,” she said. “They come from interesting backgrounds and have diverse perspectives, and I love seeing the world through their lens.”

“I just love my students. They come from interesting backgrounds and have diverse perspectives.”

— Annika Mosier

Her students often reach out to her for extra support. She knows many of them struggle to balance competing responsibilities in their lives, much like she does. She helps the students locate resources inside and outside the classroom and encourages them to build communities among themselves to support one another.

She’s happy to give her students extra support – just as others gave it to her.