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Q&A with Promega D.O.O.R.S. scholarship winner Miriam Silberman

Miriam Silberman, a microbiology major in the School of Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, won a Promega D.O.O.R.S. (Diversification of Our Research Scientists) scholarship.

The goal of the scholarship is to recognize and empower underrepresented students in STEM by offering a $5,000 award to be used toward resources to support tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance at an educational institution. In addition, D.O.O.R.S. awardees participate in mentorship relationships and have larger group sessions focusing on building skills like scientific writing, presentation giving, exploring potential career paths, self-care and conflict resolution in the workplace.

Miriam heard about the scholarship through Associate Professor Arpita Bose. Miriam has been conducting sustainability research in the Bose Lab.

Q: Where are you from and what brought you to WashU?

A: I'm from a town North of Chicago. I’m a Mexican-American, so my family carries traditions and expectations from both cultures. One thing about many traditional Mexican families is that there is an implication that a woman should stay closer to home, so my family encouraged me to apply to Midwestern schools – this was about the farthest they encouraged. When I attended WashU Preview, I experienced some classes in person and met a lot of cool people. I really liked the school, so I applied and now I'm here!

Q: Was there an experience early in life that led you to your interest in science today?

A: I've always been really into sustainability. My mother works in the sustainability sector as a consultant with a focus on energy. Our household was always very aware of how much water and energy we consume. This led me to ask questions like “What are ways that we can reduce energy use in everyday life?” and “How can we reduce plastic use in everyday life?”.

I took that with me to college, where I found the Bose Lab, which focuses on environmental microbiology. The lab had an ongoing project surrounding bioplastic and biofuel production from bacteria. The more that I read about it, the more interested I was. I fell in love with environmental microbiology as a whole and now want to create solutions not just for generating sustainable plastics, but also eliminating plastic waste.

Q: What does the DOORS scholarship mean to you?

A: It’s very affirming to receive a scholarship like this. I spend a lot of time in the lab, and I've spent a lot of time over my summers doing research, reading, and learning. To have an external source recognize my efforts as being a worthwhile investment means a lot to me emotionally. Of course, it also means a lot to me financially to have tuition and transportation support.

Q: Do you know yet what you would like to do in the future, as far as your career?

A: I'd like to complete my PhD and postdoc, then become a professor myself and have my own microbiology lab. If there's one thing I've learned at the Bose Lab, it's that microbes have the power to really change a lot of stories in the way that we understand science.  Right now, my focus is on plastic degradation and plastic production, but I'm interested in learning about other aspects of the field.

To learn more about Promega’s D.O.O.R.S. scholarship and how to apply, visit: https://www.promega.com/global/doors-program/#mission.