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WUSTL ENDURE Neuroscience Pipeline Program

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“Science has its own culture, language and unspoken norms that are hard to understand and navigate. When you do not understand that culture, it makes the already difficult journey to becoming a scientist harder. I did not want other students to have that difficulty or to have it dissuade them from pursuing a scientific career. As the ENDURE program coordinator, my goal is to help students both understand scientific concepts and culture, while encouraging them to change it to reflect all scientists” (Diana José-Edwards, WUSTL ENDURE Program Coordinator).

Faculty Spotlight: Swanne Gordon, Assistant Professor of Biology

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Swanne Gordon, assistant professor of biology, talks about her background, career challenges and passionate belief in embracing diversity and broadening horizons. "As a minority in STEM it is easy to feel that you don’t belong in academia because there are rarely people that look like you in positions of power in it, or really in any positions at all. The overt racism my father went through as a black scientist in North America in the 70’s has now given way to more covert racism (although my experiences show me the other definitely still exists); where people in academia (students and staff) devalue your merits, question your presence even in spite of your CV, limit your promotions, cite and collaborate with you less, etc. It is imperative that we fight against and fix these issues. The importance of this cannot be overstated because as I always say and wholeheartedly believe, only when the broad diversity of humanity is fairly represented, can science truly appeal to our society as a universal knowledge."

Faculty Spotlight: Barbara Kunkel, Professor of Biology

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Dr. Kunkel always knew she wanted work in some sort of biological field, but it was never medicine, never human medicine at least. She credits her various courses and professors at UC Davis for exposing her to different areas of biology and helping her discover that she wanted to do research as a career. After her postdoc, she and her husband, also a biologist, Michael Nonet started looking for permanent positions, hoping to end up at the same university. Washington University provided such an opportunity, and offered them both assistant professor positions. They joined the faculty here in spring of 1994, Dr. Nonet in the Department of Neuroscience (then it was the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology) at the med school and she in the Biology Department on the Danforth campus.

Faculty Spotlight: April Bednarski

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April Bednarski grew up in Iowa, completing her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA. Her parents both grew up on farms in Iowa, a long family tradition, but she was the first person in her family to enter a field of science. Her inspiration for scientific study began with the challenging and engaging classes offered by her middle/high school teacher Larry Zach. Though he retired from teaching, Zach now shares his passion for naturalism and conservation through art. He is a famous wildlife artist, known for his extremely realistic paintings.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Maya Dutta on the Olsen Lab

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Adaptation to local environments is critically important for a plant’s ability to survive in a variety of ecological settings and persist in the face of climate change. The genetic and physiological mechanisms that regulate these processes, however, are not well known. In the Olsen Lab, we aim to understand the genetic basis of evolution in plants. We are specifically interested in understanding how genetic variation within a species is shaped by natural selection, population history, and other various evolutionary forces.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Mitchell Grinwald on the Chheda Lab

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My work in the Chheda lab as a Bio500 independent research student has given me a fantastic opportunity to explore my interests at the intersection of epigenetics and cancer biology. Additionally, the ability to conduct independent research with the exceptional support which my PI (Dr. Chheda) and bench mentor (Dr. Galdieri) provide has enabled me to learn new techniques and think critically about experimental design and analysis. The hands-on application and extension of classroom concepts in a lab setting has been extremely valuable to my learning process. Through my research experiences, I have learned a great deal about translational research and am now considering a career as a physician-scientist.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Samuel Kim on the Kummer Lab

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Though I originally arrived at WashU set on attending medical school, my experience in the Kummer lab through Bio 500 and the interactions with my professors and valued mentors have led me to reconsider. I am grateful to have realized that research is a stimulating process of continual growth that I want to pursue as a career, and I am hopeful for the findings that our generation of neuroscientists will discover about the complex organ that makes us human.

Faculty Spotlight: Heather Barton

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Heather Barton grew up in Meadville, a tiny town in western Pennsylvania. She completed her undergrad work at Grove City College near her hometown. Her family, including her parents and four sisters, lived a quiet country lifestyle. She spent many hours as a child playing outside in the dirt, in streams and in the woods. Nature was a big part of her life from a very young age and her desire to figure out how things work in nature was a driving force behind her interest in biology.

Faculty Spotlight: Mary Lambo

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How does sensory processing lend itself to life as we know it? If our experiences materialize due to sensory transduction, do these processes inspire our entire perspective? These questions sparked Mary Lambo’s interest in neuroscience and eventually motivated her research in neural plasticity and sensory processing. As new teaching faculty at Wash U, Mary now guides students through fundamental neuroscience concepts and challenges them to discover their own motivating questions.

Bio 500 Research Spotlight: Benjamin French on the Elgin Lab

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I have been working in Dr. Elgin’s lab for the past two and a half years to analyze the characteristics of an unusual chromosome in Drosophila (fruit flies). The fourth chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster is unusual because this tiny chromosome is almost entirely heterochromatic yet contains about 80 protein-coding genes. In the Elgin lab, we use a combination of DNA manipulation experiments done in the wet lab and bioinformatic analyses done on the computer to identify factors that enable the expression of fourth chromosome genes within a mostly heterochromatic domain.

Faculty Spotlight: Joseph Jez, Biology Chair

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Joseph Jez began his work with the Biology Department ten years ago as an assistant professor. He is now Professor of Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and as of July 1, 2018 the Biology Department Chair. We sat down to talk about the changes he’s witnessed over the last decade as well as what he would like to see in the future.

Interview with undergrad Daniel Berkovich about the American Society of Plant Biologists SURF

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"I am motivated to conduct my research not only because I find it personally interesting, but because it grants me the privilege to contribute to the greater scientific community."

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