Archive for August, 2009

Fabulous Pre-doctoral student in Molecular Pharmacology Research: Monica Nye-Johnson

Posted on August 31st, 2009 by Admin

nye pic jumping on bedName: Monica D. Nye-Johnson
Hometown:  Indianapolis, IN
Education: Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) 2000-2002, Indiana University 2002-2005
Current Status: Pre Ph.D.

 When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? June 2005

 How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? I first heard about research opportunities at the Mayo Clinic when I applied for the post-baccalaureate program.

What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty? I am currently a pre-doctoral fellow in Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. My thesis research focuses on the transcription factor GLI1 and it’s interaction with TGF-beta/SMAD4.

 Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community? I am a member of the IMSD group. I have volunteered at the Rochester Public schools as a lunch buddy.

 How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Mayo Rochester is a much different community from where I grew up because it is much smaller. Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the US. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood and attended a large high school and university where I was able to interact with people of several different backgrounds. The weather in Rochester in the winter is much different than home. Indy does not get very cold and not so much snow.

 Do you consider yourself diverse? I consider myself very diverse. Growing up my mother never allowed me to be in a place where I was just like everyone else. Our neighborhoods were always made of different races/ethnicity’s. I have friends from several different backgrounds ethnically and socioeconomically. I also like to think of myself as diverse because I have interest in many different types of things. I have friends who love many different things and I take pride in enjoying new things that my friends expose me too. I’m willing to try anything once, because I will never know what I will like if I do not try it first.

 How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Being from a diverse background has provided me several opportunities that lead to me being here at Mayo. As an undergrad I was accepted in the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program. This program is for underrepresented minorities to expose them to careers in science. My summer internship was my first laboratory experience. I came to Mayo for the post-bac program through the IMSD funding grant. Being from a diverse background as a pre-doctoral student allows me to apply for grants geared towards increasing the number of minorities in science.

Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN? I feel very comfortable here at Mayo. Sometimes I have experience people treating me differently outside of Mayo in different places in Rochester.

 Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving or as a professional at Mayo Clinic? Mayo Clinic prides itself on being a diverse environment, so yes I feel that diversity plays a role in my education here at the Clinic. My classmates are a very diverse group of individuals. I have had the opportunity to meet people who grew up from all around the world.

 Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? I think Mayo Clinic and Rochester are both diverse. The diversity present in my work place and community do affect me, because I am apart of these two groups as well. Having a diverse community is important to me because it provides me a chance to meet people who are different from me and I’m able to experience new things because of this. I would leave things the same!


Diverse Tex-Mex Pre-doctoral Student in cancer genetic research: Jessica Monique Silva

Posted on August 10th, 2009 by Admin


Please enjoy my interview............... :)

Click on the link to hear the interview or silva-interview.  (If you have difficulty viewing the movie, please try this link: silva-interview-v6.)

If there are any new or interested graduate students out there with questions PLEASE ask away! Also, new graduate students (MGS, MSHS, MMS, MCME, MSGME, or others)....good luck on taking your first grad courses and remember it may seem hard and you may stop to think if you belong in grad school...but dont worry, YOU DO, we all go through this! Just keep your head lifted high and push through it.

 If you have problems opening the is a quick and nice summary of video!


When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? 2004 participated as a SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) in Rochester, then came back 2006 as Pre-doctoral student

How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic? I heard about Mayo Clinic when I worked as a student technician in a medical oncology laboratory at UTHSCSA (University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio) while in college. I then applied to be a SURF! 

What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty? Currently, I am a fourth year pre-doctoral student in the BMB department with my focus in Cancer Biology (Genetics). My area of interest is focusing on identifying new novel long non-coding transcripts which I term NNK-induced transcripts (NiTs) and their association with cancer. 

Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community? At Mayo Clinic I participate in the IMSD program and manage the best blog in the world!? (By this I mean the Diversity Blog…for those of you falling to sleep…ha). In the Rochester Community, I am a Nursery Minister and a Social Justice Minister at Pax Christi Church. I am also a member of American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) and a proud Cambridge Who’s Who Member among Executives, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs. 

How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Well, where do I begin…1.) I hadn’t seen snow since I was 5 years old!!! Yup, this poor little Tex-Mex girl has been freezing her tush off here in Minnesota. I was actually known as the “crazy Texan girl who was taking pictures in the snow” during Mayo Graduate School’s interview weekend. It has been very cold here in Roch but I have become a little more accustomed to it as the years fly by. 2.) Rochester community is very different than San Antonio. It is predominantly Mexican American population with lots of culture and great Mexican food! Not to say Newt’s hamburgers aren’t great, but you need to go up to the cities (Minneapolis) to get some flavor! I tend to put lots of pepper and jalapenos on everything I eat :) 

Do you consider yourself diverse? Well, do you think I’m diverse???…………I love Country, Spanish Rock, Mariachi, Tejano, and Hip-Hop music. I own two pairs of cowboy boots (one is made of lizard) and several cowgirl hats. I love archery (I have a hot pink bow with matching arrows) and have been to the shooting range. I can dance to just about anything salsa, tango, waltz, swing, hip hop, cumbias, etc. The majority of my sentences contain “Ya’ll”, “Porecito/a”, “Si/No”, “Mija”, “Darling” or “Sangwich”; not in the same sentence of course and not in that order. (ha) I talk really loudly and I use insane gestures with my hands when I talk. I love science and own the Journal of Science’s Human Genome Project T-shirt that has Chromosome 1 covering it entirely! (It’s pretty awesome!) Finally, I love cooking and I love eating very spicy foods!!! I think that’s fits me……Tex-Mex Woman in Science!

What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Well, to begin I didn’t grow up with lots of money; my parents divorced when I was very young and we moved into our grandmother’s house in a pretty bad neighborhood. I started working to support myself when I was 16 years old and continued working full time throughout college until I came to Mayo. My mother was also diagnosed with cervical cancer while I was in college and I took very good care of her. (She has been cancer free for 7 years now!!!) Although, there were many hurdles and hardships throughout my journey to get to Mayo, my strong religious beliefs and lots of love and support from family, friends, and great mentors allowed me to be where I am today. 

How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? I am a recipient of the AACR Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award. I am also an IMSD fellow and I run this blog…….woohoo! 

Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN? Honestly, YES of course. Not always in a negative manner but if there is a program, group, committee, or club that contains anything to do with minority students (being the only Mexican in the graduate school...currently) my name tends to be called upon. I’m just extremely happy that I enjoy being an advocate and I have a very good way of getting my voice heard! In Rochester….lets just say, I stand out in a crowd. 

Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving (grad/med school, IMSD) or as a professional at Mayo Clinic? If yes or no, explain. I don’t think diversity plays a huge role in the education I am receiving. I think I am fortunate to have been accepted into the Mayo graduate school program and think they push all of us to be the best we can actually be and even better. The IMSD program however, does stand out in the aspect that we get to meet several successful researchers and doctors of diverse backgrounds. We also have a very nice community of diverse students who get to come together and help each other out. 

Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse? Does this affect you? Would you change it or leave it the same? If you would make changes, what would they be? Please explain.  Mayo Clinic is diverse, with people coming from all over the world….Rochester not so much. I do think the graduate school has some diverse students but I can count them in one hand. I think it would be nice to see more familiar brown beautiful faces; however I think the times are changing and things will hopefully be different in the future. One thing to note…is that there are many females compared to males in the program, which I think personally, is awesome!! YOU GO GIRLS!! 

If you have any other comments/points/reflections about diversity, education or Mayo Clinic please use this space to comment. With all in all said above, Rochester may not be the most diverse place, may not have the best enchiladas verdes or tamales, and may not be the sunniest or hottest place in the world. However, the WFMC (World Famous Mayo Clinic) is located in Rochester and the best graduate program, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine Graduate School, is in Rochester so what else could you ask for…there’s low crime rate, no traffic, you can get anywhere in 5 minutes, all roads/buses lead to Mayo, its inexpensive to live, and if all this doesn’t help you can always go to Mayo Jacksonville or Mayo Scottsdale locations! ….One thing to note is that you will get the best education here at Mayo, whether it is in medicine or basic science, and this will always open many doors for you in the future!! 

 Your TEX-MEX Queen, Jessica Monique Silva   

Updated: 8/12/09

Strong Mexican Woman Studying Amyloidosis Research: Dr. Marina Ramirez-Alvarado

Posted on August 3rd, 2009 by Admin

Name:  Marina Ramirez-Alvaradomarina
Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Education: (College/s name/s)BS, MS 1986-1994: National and Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico.
PhD 1994-1998: European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg Germany.
Postdoctoral fellow 1998-2002: Yale University
Current Status: Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I have been married to Jim Berglund for 10 years and we have one son, Danny, who is 6 years old and will be in 1st grade at the Rochester Montessori School.

 When did you start work/school at Mayo Clinic? April 1st. 2002

How did you become interested in or hear about Mayo Clinic?When I was a postdoctoral fellow at Yale studying mechanisms of amyloid formation using a model system, I attended the FASEB amyloid meeting and met Angela Dispenzieri, currently a professor in the division of Hematology here at Mayo. She expressed interest in having a basic scientist working on amyloidosis working at Mayo. I was starting to get ready to consider options for independent investigator jobs in the Midwest (my husband is from Afton, Minnesota). I visited Mayo very informally the summer of 2000 and gave an informal seminar to the division of Hematology in December of 2000. The department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology advertised two assistant professor positions in January of 2001 and I applied to the job. The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you do here at Mayo Clinic? What is your area of specialty?  I am a protein biochemist interested in the mechanisms of amyloid formation in light chain amyloidosis, a rare and devastating hematologic malignancy and protein misfolding disease. My lab performs biochemical, biophysical and cell culture studies. We work together with a team of hematologists and nephrologists that manage the treatment of patients suffering this disease.  I am the team leader of a group of talented technicians, students and postdocs. My first PhD student (Dr. Liz Baden) graduated in January of 2009. I serve as principal investigators on grants from the NIH and American Heart Association and as co-investigator on an NIH funded clinical trial project. I co-direct the advanced course on Biological Macromolecules in the fall and lecture in the Genome Biology and Molecular Biophysics courses for first year graduate students.  I am part of the advisory board for the IMSD program here at Mayo. I have served as the BMB department seminar series coordinator, BMB SURF director, member of the BMB education committee, member of the MD/PhD admissions committee and a member of the CTSA curriculum committee for the pre-doctoral program.

Do you participate in any organizations, societies, clubs, memberships, professions at Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester community?  I have been a member of the IMSD advisory board for 4 years. I am a member of the Association of Women in Science.  I am an active member of the PTSA in my son’s school (Rochester Montessori School) and have co-chaired 3 fundraising events to continue to build the outdoor environment and to increase the energy efficiency at his school. I am a dedicated Christian and serve as a member/missionary of People of Hope, a Lutheran church in mission here in Rochester. I participate as worship leader, and sing and play the guitar as a member of the praise band during worship services. I have participated in the Habitat for Humanity Women Build project and hope to participate in more Habitat for Humanity projects.

How does working at Mayo Clinic Rochester location differ from your hometown or where you attended school? Rochester is a very small city compared to Mexico City (current population of the Greater Mexico City area exceeds 20 million people, the third largest metropolitan area in the world). Mexico as a whole is a very young country: half of the population is under the age of 25. Mexico City has very mild weather with minor changes in temperature and sun light throughout the year so Rochester is very different from where I come from. I understand diversity as having people from different cultures and ethnicities. With that in mind, Rochester is far more diverse that Mexico City in my opinion because there is representation of a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities here in Rochester. Mexico City is populated mostly by people of Mexican origins.

Do you consider yourself diverse? I consider myself diverse. I am a Mexican-born woman and I am very proud of my Mexican heritage and my culture. I am a history buff and have carried around with me all throughout my scientific journey books about the history of Mexico. When I was in college, I learned how to speak the ancient Aztec language. My husband is an US-born American citizen. We encourage our diversity by celebrating our holidays both in the Mexican and the American way. I speak to our son only in Spanish. However, I don’t think that being diverse means being isolated from the numerous cultures and heritages living in Rochester and in general in the US. Being diverse gives you the responsibility to teach others about the true nature of your ethnicity, to become an ambassador of your culture and to create bridges.

What types of hardships or hurdles did you have to overcome to get your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? Did your diverse background have a role in these hardships? I am the only one in my family with a graduate degree. My oldest brother and I are the only ones with a college degree in my family. My family had to make tremendous sacrifices to offer to all of us a private, bilingual education and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. I always liked to travel and when the opportunity came to study abroad, I took it enthusiastically. I first felt that European students and scientists were ‘better’ than me and I was not part of their ‘league’, but little by little I realized that my Mexican colleagues and I had the potential to be as talented scientists as anyone in Europe or the US and what most of my Mexican colleagues lacked was English proficiency.   Once I felt ‘part of the big league’ I never felt any different in terms of my education.

There have been numerous hardships and hurdles in my journey as an independent investigator at Mayo. However, I don’t think that my diverse background had a role in these hardships in a direct way. In the past couple of years I have learned that women in general tend to volunteer to do more of the thankless duties in a department compared to our male counterparts. We do this because we want to contribute to our community and be good citizens but more often than not we end up spreading ourselves too thin and losing the precious time we need to think. This happened to me. With the help of my mentor, Grazia Isaya and my department chair, I drastically reduced my commitment to things outside my own research and started appreciating the importance of focus on our work. Since the reduction of my outside committees happened, I have started two new lines of research in my laboratory, so it has definitely paid off.

I also think that women and men deal with hardship differently and that in general women tend to be harder on them than men are. This is true with the way we deal with paper rejection and bad grant scores.  Last, but not least, women’s schedules tend to be busier because women are in general in charge of most of the household responsibilities, child care, family care, elder care, connections and social life in general, so when we go home, we have a full schedule of activities and duties to cover. I am always running around and I have a full schedule even on weekends. I tend to do more than one thing at a time. I don’t have time for casual chats in the corridor or to socialize with my colleagues and sometimes that makes me feel that I don’t belong to the “club”. I do a lot of my thinking when I am alone driving or while I take a shower. Any moment counts since the priorities in my life are such that preclude me from having much time left for anything. I don’t regret my very busy life since this is my choice, but I recognize that there are dramatic differences between what I have on my plate and what’s on my colleagues plate. I think that little by little my male colleagues recognize the differences in responsibilities that women scientist have outside of the work environment.

How has being from a diverse background helped you succeed in getting your education or profession at Mayo Clinic? The only thing that my diverse background has helped me relates to the start up package when I was offered a job at Mayo.  Mayo was trying to come up with a package that could fulfill my equipment requirements. During one of these negotiations, I was told that I could get extra 10,000 dollars for equipment because I am a minority and there had been a fund to support minority recruitment. I joked with my administrator that I should get 20,000 dollars because I am a double minority. I didn’t get the extra money…

At this stage of my career, there are very limited opportunities for grants geared towards diverse people compared to the opportunities found for students and postdoctoral fellows.

Coming from a diverse background, do you feel that people treat you different at Mayo Clinic or Rochester, MN?Not really, although I try to be very friendly with people all the time and sometimes people turn away and don’t make eye contact with me. This happens on the street, in my floor, and all around campus. I don’t think this is because of the way I look; it is mostly because some people are used to minding their own business and may feel that my smile may be an intrusion to their personal space. In Mexico, we have literally no personal space and you can start a conversation with anyone at any point.

Do you feel that diversity plays a role in the education you are receiving or as a professional at Mayo Clinic? I have been really pleased to see the emphasis on diversity here at Mayo, mostly from our College of Medicine (IMSD, graduate and medical school).  I have also been involved with some initiatives to help professional women to develop their careers here at Mayo. A lot is being done and a lot needs to be done and part of my role as a diverse woman in science is to identify issues that are important to maintain a diverse education environment and workforce here at Mayo and to work together with the different groups involved in making changes.  It is not going to happen overnight, so we have to be patient, but we cannot become complacent either.

Do you think Mayo Clinic and/or Rochester, MN and/or your program is diverse?I believe that we are making great progress in having a diverse Mayo Clinic, particularly in our College of Medicine but more needs to be done. My department is unfortunately not diverse. I am the only faculty member of diverse ethnical background out of 55 members. There are only 8 female members of our faculty (2 in Scottsdale) according to our website. Only 2 women have primary appointments in our department. Mayo is not alone in this regard. Numerous studies have shown that there is no bias with any gender in medical school and the disparity has greatly diminished in graduate school in Science Technology and Mathematics (STEM), but at the academic independent investigator level, there is a disparity between male and women professors that becomes worse and worse as faculty members become more and more senior.  I don’t think there is a ‘magic bullet’ that will change this disparity overnight. The issues involved in this disparity are complex and hard to tackle. People of diverse background may not feel comfortable being one of a kind in a group of people (lack of mentors of their diverse background), so they may tend to go to professions or work areas where there are already more members of diverse backgrounds. In the case of women, many women that are about to become independent investigators may feel compelled to find a job outside academia because those jobs may be more flexible or adaptable to raising children and caring for elderly relatives.  Many women also take a less demanding job to allow their partners to fulfill an ambitious career. Some women leave academic workforce because they find the environment too isolating and family unfriendly.  Hiring freezes across institutions are making the problem persist since there is no opportunity to diversify the workforce at the moment, maintaining the disparity where it is.

Since we cannot change the hiring freeze at the moment, Changes could be implemented to make our environment more family friendly by finding out a good way to allow part time work opportunities for independent investigators. That will allow more women to fulfill their family responsibilities while still conducting basic research. At the moment, there is no such thing for investigators at Mayo or many academic institutions. It requires a carefully crafted plan approved by each Department together with the Research committee.

Other things that members of the diverse community can do is to understand that changes in the culture have to happen and they can happen if we communicate about how we feel with our male and non-diverse counterparts.

I also think that as a diverse person, I can make an effort to fit in with the rest of my colleagues and find common interests that will make us feel less isolated.  We have to move out of our comfort zone and start building bridges.

Reflection::: As members of the diverse community at Mayo, I believe that it is our role to become role models and cheerleaders of the future generation of diverse scientists and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to be part of the larger community. We cannot isolate ourselves, we need to be brave and create bonds with everyone, regardless of their background. These bonds could be based on our passion for education, research or our medical practice. We are the bridges that will bring more diversity into our community.detail paseo de la reforma sculptures compress