Samantha Payne

Keeping Everything in Perspective

When she's not working hard to unlock the secrets of stem cells, she's dreaming of selling her hand-knit goods in her own Etsy shop.


Samantha Payne is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto in Prof. Molly Shoichet’s lab where she is investigating how to improve the survival of stem cells transplanted into injured brain tissue. We asked her everything from what she is reading to what she does for fun in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for a Canadian graduate student.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
I like the freedom of being able to pursue answers to really interesting questions about the world around us.  I also enjoy being a part of a community of so many amazing researchers and sharing in work that might one day contribute to helping people.

What advice would you give young researchers?
Don’t get too worried when something goes wrong or you didn’t get the answer you were expecting, it’s all part of the scientific process and everyone experiences failure (usually a lot!).  Along with that, I find it helpful to take the time to step back from your lab work to regain perspective and remember that performing research is an amazing opportunity that not a lot of people will get to experience.

What are you reading right now? 
I’m currently reading ”The Hero with A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, a book about the origin of myths and religion.  Although, in the interest of accuracy, I should disclose that this is a little more intellectual than what I generally like to read.

What do you like to do for fun? 
Outside of the lab I like to try and make time for my hobbies like knitting and playing guitar.  I’m also in the process of learning violin but it’s still a work in progress.  I also enjoy aerial yoga, which I highly recommend to anyone looking to stretch out their back and shoulders after a day at the lab bench.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I’ve always loved animals, and for most of my life wanted to be a veterinarian before I was introduced to academic research in my undergraduate program, so I would probably go back to that.  Or I’d go in the complete opposite direction and open up an Etsy shop selling whatever crafty things I felt like making.

Interested in learning more about Samantha’s work? OIRM made a Stem Cells Inked video about it.