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How to be successful in grad school? Advice from a woman in STEAM

Jailenne I. Quiñones-Rodriguez (she|her|ella) in collaboration with QMA 

According to the United States Census, the number of doctoral degree holders has more than doubled to 4.5 million. 

Being a graduate student is… well, it depends on whom you ask; the variety of experiences (and opinions about those experiences) ranges wildly.

From my experience, being a graduate student is being in constant learning and training. This training not only contributes to the academic aspect but also involves the emotional and mental components. However, it has been an extremely gratifying experience to be able to be a facilitator to train and influence the lives of so many students and adolescents.

For this reason, in the last years of my training, I made the decision to promote pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) so that minorities, like me, are represented and have role models to fulfill their goals. 

With this in mind, I interviewed Rituparna Sinha Roy, a Texas Woman's University graduate student from Dr. Bergel's lab. She has a tremendous story where she teaches us to fight for our dreams and persist. Her path is a great example of thousands of people pursuing their dreams and turning their circumstances into actions

Rituparna is a native of Kolkata, India. Her father was a science school teacher and always encouraged her to read about scientific discoveries and fiction. This interest drove her throughout and helped her to dream of doctoral studies in the United States. She traveled across half the world to a new country to pursue higher studies, but this decision was tough because she had to leave behind her parents and relatives.

  1. Why did you become a scientist? What made you choose this field?

My father was my first inspiration to take science back in my school days, then over the years, as I read about so many scientists and their discoveries, I decided to pursue my career as a scientist. I remembered, in high school when I read about cells and one cell dividing into multiple cells, I got intrigued and started liking this area of science.

  1. What is the most important lesson you learned during your academic career?

Persistence is required to chase and fulfill dreams. Failed experiments don't mean we will lose and can create a new possibility.

  1. What is your research about? What is your most important scientific finding? 

I am studying the molecular pathway that causes the chromatin to react to ultraviolet sunlight. The defense mechanism our body has against harmful ultraviolet rays can start from the DNA inside each cell.

  1. What are your long-term goals?

Long term goal is to set up a company based on the regenerative capability of age renewal products through targeted drug therapy.

  1. How has mentoring been important for you as a scientist?

Mentoring is crucial in every phase of life. Only a good mentor can help us to see beyond our capabilities. My mentors helped me to see the right path, and, in the future, I will be able to do the same for the new generation.

  1. What advice would you give a teen who wants to follow a career in STEM?

It is better to fail than not ever trying to do something. Networking is helpful, to know opportunities and knowledge from others.


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About the author:

Jailenne I. Quiñones-Rodriguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at Universidad Central del Caribe – School of Medicine (UCC-SOM) and is a current Junior Research Associate from Puerto Rico IDeA Network Biomedical Research Excellence (PRINBRE). She is a first-generation scientist in her family and received her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce. In 2015, she joined the graduate program at UCC-SOM. During her Ph.D., she graduated with honors from a master's degree in Anatomy and Biomedical Sciences. Her evident interest in human anatomy and neuroanatomy has led her to coordinate, instruct, and mentor medical students with interest in the surgical field through an outreach anatomy project, which promotes clinical anatomy research while the students could do peer teaching. 


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