NWiS Spotlight: Amanda Coldwell

September 26, 2022

MPFI’s Network for Women in Science works to raise awareness and promote change related to issues pertinent to female under-representation in STEM-related careers. We invite you to get to know some of the women making a difference at Max Planck Florida in this new series from NWiS.

Amanda Coldwell has been the Animal Resource Center Senior Manager at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience for the past 12 years. Amanda’s formal training began at North Dakota State University, where she received her B.S degree in Zoology with a minor in Psychology. However, her informal training and passion for working with animals began much earlier. Amanda grew up on a rural farm in Minnesota, where she was surrounded by and cared for cows, pigs, dogs, cats, and even a cougar!

After college Amanda worked in the zoo industry for 10+ years, including at the Palm Beach Zoo. There, she worked with many species but spent most of her time with the large carnivores as the Curator of Carnivores. In 2009, Amanda transitioned from the zoo industry to her current role at MPFI. As Amanda describes it, “It was a big change and adjustment. However, I have found over the years that my experience working with exotics has helped drastically in managing the animal facility here at MPFI.” Since joining MPFI, Amanda has continued to further her education, recently earning her Certified Manager of Animal Resources (CMAR) certification from AALAS. She has also been highly active in the leadership of the Laboratory Animal Management Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the quality of management and care of laboratory animals throughout the world.

In addition to her essential role at MPFI, Amanda is the mom of boy/girl/girl triplets! She credits ‘her miracles’ to the amazing work of scientists to improve IVF technology.

1. How would you describe your journey to science?
I grew up on a farm and fell in love with animals! I followed the vet around whenever he came to the farm and quickly started researching more about animals on my own. I actually got a pet Cougar when I was 16! This was crazy, and I DO NOT recommend this to anyone, but luckily my father and I used our animal knowledge to build an amazing habitat for her, and she lived a great life for 16 years.

2. What advice do you wish someone had given to you 5 years ago?
Do things that make you uncomfortable! It helps you grow as an individual.

3. What is the best part of your job/career?
I learn something new every day! I love to learn and grow as an individual and a professional, so this always excites me. I love advocating for the animals and ensuring their safety and well-being. It is very rewarding!

4. How has your identity as a woman affected your career?
In college, I was one of only 5 females in my zoology program. I always found that odd! As the years went on, this number grew, and when I started my job at the Palm Beach Zoo in 2003, there were twice as many women as men working in animal care.

5. What is a challenge that you have successfully overcome in your career?
I have always struggled with gaining respect as a woman manager. When working with certain people over the years, I felt I had to prove myself as a knowledgeable person in my career and as a good leader. I have overcome the fear of not being respected and have learned to be myself. I now know that my work proves to others that I am good at what I do. Confidence in my abilities has grown over the years and allowed me to overcome some stereotypes of women in management.