Aggie Hero: Kristin Aquilino

Kristin Aquilino shows selfies of scalp and with wig.
Kristin Aquilino shows her alopecia-effected scalp, and her new wig. “The next time you see me, I might be wearing my new wig, rocking my bald head, or topping my lid with something completely different. Feel free to comment on whatever I’m sporting — I’ll always be happy to talk about it.”

Kristin Aquilino is respected worldwide for her research at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory where she is working to rescue white abalone from the brink of extinction. In fact, just this month, hundreds of the lab’s white abalone were released into the ocean as part of an 11-year collaboration between Aquilino’s team at the BML, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others.

While her efforts are heroic, Aquilino’s Aggie Hero award comes from her goal of “helping others in a powerful way,” according to her nomination.

Aquilino explained in her own words, via a Twitter thread “on dealing with hair loss.”

“I’ve been suffering from hair loss due to alopecia ophiasis (an autoimmune disorder) for a few years,” Aquilino said.

She described trying to be OK with the mostly cosmetic issue —she is undergoing dermatological treatment which may or may not regrow her hair — but she wrestled with her own vanity and other implications of balding.

“Hair loss impacts me in a few ways,” she wrote. “There is my sense of identity, which makes me want to look like me; my vanity, which makes me want to fit into societal norms; society’s vanity, which expects me to conform to cultural beauty standards; and a natural association with hair loss and poor health, which can cause people to worry and alter their perception of me.”

With her Twitter post, Aquilino shared photos of herself balding as well as wearing her new wig. Her hope with the photos, she said, is to show that “I am me in both photos. I am beautiful in both photos. I am happy in both photos. I am a competent parent, a supportive friend and mentor, and a good scientist in both photos.”

Read the full thread on Twitter.