By Marina Pazin
In science, success is often measured not by one’s ambition and determination, but rather by the more easily quantifiable evidence of conferences attended, manuscripts accepted to prestigious journals, and the number of awards and grants received. Judging by the work she’s done thus far, Isabel Rodriguez, a senior majoring in biology, with a concentration in biophysiology, at Northwestern University, is well on her way towards achieving success, no matter how it is measured. She fell in love with science in middle school and started doing research in her father’s lab at just sixteen years of age. At first, the ‘research’ performed by Isabel consisted of nothing more than learning basic laboratory techniques. Pipetting solutions was originally a project of its own, as she tried to pipette as much soap solution as she could into the pipette without creating bubbles. However, she quickly moved on from learning techniques and procedures to elucidating protein-protein signaling mechanisms in various disease models. For her persistence and dedication to biomedical research, Isabel is September’s ‘Scientist of the Month.’
For her first research assignment, Isabel was asked to analyze the effect of different stimuli on apoptosis of ovarian cancer cells. As she got more comfortable in the lab, the questions she was addressing became more sophisticated. While a high school student, she spent most breaks from school in her father’s lab in Evanston Hospital analyzing the differential signaling mechanisms by which progesterone and omega-3-fatty acids regulate ovarian cancer cell proliferation and apoptosis. Three years ago, as a freshman in college, Isabel joined the lab of Drs. Tamas Jilling and Michael Caplan as a summer student. This allowed her to experience a different area of research from what she had been working on. “I work with rat intestinal epithelial cells, and have been concentrating on the interactions between different cell surface receptors. My first two summers in this lab I looked at the interaction between TLR4 and NOD2 receptors. This summer I’m focusing on the effect of stimulating TLR4 on cell migration.” Though her current research topic is very specific, Isabel ultimately is hopping to identify how pro-inflammatory molecules (in this case, TLR4) regulate cell migration, a process necessary for proper immune response, organ development, and tissue regeneration after injury.
Being able to contribute to multitude of research projects around her is just one reason why Isabel keeps coming back summer after summer to work in lab despite her commitments to her sorority, crew team, and course work. “I enjoy the act of doing research. I genuinely like running experiments and analyzing results and trying to figure out what to do next. In a lot of ways, research is a really complicated puzzle.” Although this eager senior is nervous and excited about starting medical school next year (where she hopes to focus on oncology), she in no way wants to forget about the basic science research in which she has invested so much time. “I’m looking forward to learning about the clinical side of medicine, but think that my background in research will help me understand the many dimensions of disease. I do hope to do research during med school, and am looking at a lot of programs that have a research thesis as a graduation requirement.” With her dedication to research, it is likely that Isabel will make great contributions to science as she embarks upon her career.
Nomination and article submitted by AWIS Chicago Staff Writer Marina Pazin. Ms. Pazin is a PhD candidate at NorthShore University Health System.
Know a scientist you think should be featured in an upcoming “Scientist of the Month” article? Send nominations to email@example.com. Your nominee does not need to be an AWIS member or a woman, but should promote the advancement of women in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.