WISE celebrated its 20th anniversary during a special ceremony held Wednesday, July 25, 2018, in the African American Cultural & Resource Center. Bleuzette Marshall, PhD, vice president for equity, inclusion and community impact at UC, was mistress of ceremony, while Kristi Nelson, PhD, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, offered greetings at the event.
“The WISE program has introduced me to some of the most incredible people I have ever met,” says Nguyen. “The WISE committee is amazing, and the workshops I was able to attend offered me so many resources that I can use to look for my passion and to consider future career paths. The WISE fellows, my fellow students, are an incredible group of women, very talented and dedicated, and it was awesome to see their progress through the summer.
“It was also great for me to see what industrial science is like because I was curious about that. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted a career in an industrial setting or a hospital setting,” says Nguyen.
Yana Zavros, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Systems Physiology and co-director of WISE, says students benefit from learning how to do scientific research, prepare a manuscript and then present their findings to a scientific audience. She said undergraduates also got a chance to interact with female executives in science as a part of luncheon with leaders from Procter & Gamble.
“Our class this year included a really diverse group of young women,” says Zavros. “They span disciplines from architectural engineering, cancer biology, chemistry, mathematics, pharmacy and nursing, to name just a few areas of study.”
Megan Urbanic, a junior biology major, says WISE was a confidence booster for participants. She worked in the laboratory of Tom Cunningham, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology.
“I definitely realized there was a lot more available to me than I originally thought, and no matter what path, I take I can do a lot with whatever degree I end up getting,” says Urbanic. “For instance, P&G came to talk to us at one of our workshops, and there was a range of individuals with master’s and PhD degrees. They all got to where they wanted to go in the company.”
“It was very interesting because most people think graduate school and medical school, and they think I have to be a researcher. I have this certain path and I must work in the laboratory. It is not at all true,” says Urbanic.
As part of Urbanic's research project, she utilized cutting-edge genome editing technologies to introduce precise changes in the DNA code to affect the expression levels of a critical factor required for producing nucleotides, the molecules that comprise our genetic material. Her research has potential implications for understanding or treating diseases caused by mutations in enzymes affecting cellular metabolism, and possibly cancer.
Urbanic says she learned sterile techniques for working in a laboratory, how to perform experiments independently and what to do when an experiment fails.