Angela K. Shen

Angela Shen

Dr. Angela K. Shen is a visiting research scientist at the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP, whose efforts focus on vaccine policy and research. She has also served as a captain in the U.S. Public Health Service. Angela has a graduate degree in public health (MPH) and a doctorate in science degree (ScD).

Who is your science hero?

I think for this question the reason a single person did not pop into my mind is my admiration for scientists as a whole — the many in the multiple fields of science who labor through failure and frustration only to persist in their pursuits. They wake up every day to “try again” and think outside of the box to address problems that plague humanity and our ecosystem. In this way, I admire those who persevere in science and medicine, especially those, often women and minorities, who persevere despite fewer inherent structural advantages. As a daughter of immigrant parents, my family told me to study hard and get into a good college, but after that, I was on my own. With little guidance or direction, I think I relied on the many mentors in my life and path who helped me along the way. These are my heroes.  

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career related to science?

I have always envied people who knew from early on what they wanted to do in life. I envied those with a deep passion for what they love and the ability to translate that into a paying job.

I feel like I stumbled onto my career in science and public health and found my way. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work at the intersection of science, policy, and practice, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Most notably, the joy of my career has been the people I’ve worked with, the places I’ve been, and the learning that I have been fortunate to have gotten and continue to experience. I am very satisfied when I am the “dumbest” person in the room, figuratively.  In this way, I can learn from all of those around me, literally.

Did anyone or anything in particular spark your interest in science?

Public service sparked a fire in me. There is nothing like the feeling of serving others and making your community and your country a safe and secure place to live and flourish. 

What advice do you have for students interested in a STEM career?

The best advice, I believe, one can give is to work in something you like – not just “like” but “really like,” arguably even “love.”  This will sustain you through a lifetime of joy and richness of work that at some point feels effortless and arguably even induces a guilty pleasure for being so fortunate. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is putting pieces together like a puzzle.  It is so exciting when I can connect the dots and see the “big picture.”  It is like connecting the dots of a puzzle and seeing the picture – the panda bear or the scenic sailboat – whatever the field you choose: astrophysics, architecture, microbiology.  I remember once a pair of colleagues, who worked in a pilot test lab at a company that made sunscreens, brought some new sunscreen formulations they were testing, and I thought, “How cool is that job?” Likewise, my niece works in materials science engineering; she tests new materials for mason jars. There are so many jobs are out there that go beyond the classic textbook roles that people think of for science majors.