SAIRF Staff Spotlight: Ashley Weichmann

Ashley Weichmann with a body of water behind her.

If you’ve visited the Small Animal Imaging and Radiotherapy Facility, you’ve probably seen Ashley Weichmann. She came to UW Madison as an undergrad with intentions to major in a completely different area, but through a series of twists found her perfect fit as the Senior Instrumentation Specialist at SAIRF. Get to know her more in the following Q&A.

What is your title? 

Sr. Instrumentation Specialist – Small Animal Imaging & Radiotherapy Facility (SAIRF)

Where are you from?

Lake Mills, WI

What is your educational and/or professional background?

Initially I came to UW Madison with the intent on majoring in Biomedical Engineering, but had the hard realization that I was not as strong in math as I thought I was. I was still good at anatomy and biology though. Ended up as a double major in Zoology and Anthropology, with a certificate in Archaeology (you know, for fun). I also maintain a certified veterinary technician license and moonlight a few weekends here and there at a specialty clinic.

How did you get into your field (of research)?

In undergrad I worked as a lab assistant for the RARC comparative biology laboratory and that’s where I was initially hooked on research. I saw so many more opportunities and options to grow than going to vet school (my plan B after engineering).

What attracted you to UW Carbone Cancer Center?

After I found out my limited-term appointment didn’t get renewed (another harsh lesson), I was fortunate enough to interview with Dawn Church for a research specialist position in the George Wilding Lab. I’ve been with the Cancer Center ever since, and in 2016 managed to get a position with the Small Animal Imaging Facility, which has been a perfect fit for me.

What are you enjoying most about your position? (or) What would you consider the single most interesting part of your job?

I like that I get to see all kinds of different research questions, and then get to help come up with a plan to best utilize imaging modalities to interrogate that work. I get to do a lot of different things instead of specializing in just one, and it’s always changing.

Do you feel your work contributes to the goals of the cancer center? If so, please describe.

Sometimes the pre-clinical work seems small potatoes in comparison to the other things the Cancer Center does, but it’s neat to see something you’ve worked on previously move on to human clinical trials.

Can you share an ‘elevator pitch’ for your area of expertise? (or) What do you wish people knew about your position?

Even though we’re an imaging facility – we do a little bit of everything, and it’s not limited to just mice and rats. I’ve taken x-rays of flowers and done an ultrasound on a mosquito.

What is your favorite place on the UW-Madison campus?

The Terrace is an obvious favorite, but I’ve always liked Birge Hall with the ivy climbing up the side.

What have you read lately and what was it about (i.e. books, blog, magazine, etc.)?

I am admittedly not much of a reader, but I did read the Kathy Reichs books that became the TV series Bones.

What is your guilty pleasure (e.g. reality t.v., ice fishing)?

If I’m not outside, estate sales and adding new houseplants.

Who would you like to be for a day?

Someone who could get a tan 🙂