Meet a Scientist: Jessica Parascando

Graduate School

This is the eighth post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Jessica Parascando, a 1st-year student in the Public Health program.

Meet Jessica:

hiking

Meet Jessica!

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I was born and raised in Edison, New Jersey, and lived there until I moved to Hershey in August. I received my BA in Psychology at Ramapo College of NJ, and then took post-baccalaureate courses in Biology and Statistics at Rutgers University, where I also worked in an Infant Neuroscience Laboratory.

I am currently a first year graduate student in the Master of Public Health program studying Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

My initial interest in science and sleep research began after watching an episode of the television show, Boy Meets World. In the episode, a character volunteered to participate in a study that was analyzing brain activity during sleep.

After seeing the research coordinator become perplexed at the character’s lack of neural activity during the session, I immediately became interested in how and why the brain works the way it does. There is still so much unknown about the exact function of sleep, so my goal is to combine my passions of neuropsychology and public health to help make the public more aware of positive sleep practices, and emphasize the importance of sleep at all ages.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

BabyLab 2I am currently working with a great team in a neuropsychology/biofeedback performance laboratory in the Psychiatry department. We use functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIR), electromyography (EMG) and ecological momentary assessments (EMA) to study patients with opiate addiction in hopes of identifying factors that may be associated with an increased risk of relapse during various stages of recovery.

This research is important because there is a worldwide epidemic of addiction, and relapse rates are extremely high for those who do seek recovery. We also collect sleep data using actigraphy, further emphasizing the relevance of sleep in all aspects of health.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

Outside of the lab I am on the e-board for Public Health Association for Service and Education (PHASE). In PHASE, we promote public health awareness through various events on campus and in the central PA community. I also enjoy Pilates, random hikes, watching New Girl and other shows on Netflix, reading random science articles from Twitter, daydreaming, and spending time with friends.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  1. I’m obsessed with tea and drink it everyday. My favorites are Moroccan mint, oolong and toasted walnut.
  2. I have a Cockapoo named Kapoosta.
  3. I share Ron Swanson and Leslie Knope’s love of breakfast foods.

Stay tuned for future interviews! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Stephen Matthews

Graduate School

This is the seventh post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Stephen Matthews, who just began his graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this semester.

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Meet Stephen!

Meet Stephen:

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I’m originally from Honey Brook, PA and received my BS in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry, from York College of Pennsylvania in 2014. I recently just spent a year working for a private pharmaceutical company called DormaTarg Inc. out in Oklahoma. I am currently an entering student in the Biomedical Sciences program.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

For the longest time as a child, I was interested in entomology and herpetology. I spent days outside catching insects, spiders, and snakes where I could, and reading about those I could not catch. I found AP Biology and AP Physics to be interesting in high school, but I became set on pursuing a career in science during my first biology lecture at York College.

I found the general topics to be interesting, but my professor had his degree in biochemistry and was really enthusiastic and excited over interactions and the molecular aspects of biology. His excitement passed on to me, and I have been interested ever since!

1What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

I am currently working through the start of my first laboratory rotation, and have only been in Hershey since July. The rotation process is held so new graduate students can work in a lab for a few weeks and see how it is before we commit to working in one particular lab. It provides us with so many possibilities and skills that we can use as we advance our careers.

In my previous research experience, I have worked on the fall webworm caterpillar and its thermotolerance, as well as on developing pharmaceuticals.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

Outside of lab and classwork, I love being outside. I regularly run, and love to hike, go camping and even play some Frisbee golf with friends when it is nice out. I also paint and enjoy playing video games when I can.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  1. 3I have a deep enjoyment of the theater and the arts, and have been an actor in a half dozen plays, and even directed and helped as stage crew during my undergraduate studies.
  2. When I originally moved to the southwest, I never thought I would miss much about Oklahoma, but I really do miss the massive thunderstorms there.
  3. I played the trumpet, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, violin and piano in concert, jazz and marching band, as well as orchestra… But haven’t touched any of those instruments in 4+ years.

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Brian Chiou

Graduate School

This is the sixth post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Brian Chiou, who just began his graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this semester.

Meet Brian:

Headshot

Meet Brian!

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

Hello! I am from Chicago, IL, but I attended college in the San Francisco Bay Area at the University of California – Berkeley (Go Bears!). I studied Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis on Biochemistry. I am a first-year graduate student whose role involves studying, choosing a lab, and passing those pesky tests!

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

I decided to become a scientist because I truly believe the pursuit of (all) knowledge is a wonderful thing. I can’t imagine another profession where one can wholeheartedly chase after a problem and see the benefits of such a pursuit in the world around them. Knowing that the efforts of today will lead to improvement of lives for patients around the world is a powerful motivator, and one that has shown me the importance of research. On a grand scale, it’s gratifying to know that the research and work being done by myself and others will have a lasting impact on future generations.

Headshot 2What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

As a first-year graduate student, I have yet to pick a lab, but I have always been interested in the biochemistry of the brain and the interactions that happen between neurons. These interactions manifest themselves in a number of ways that lead to a variety of effects, such as neurodegenerative diseases. I have worked previously with Alzheimer’s Disease, the leading cause of dementia in the elderly, and have become fascinated with the lack of information surrounding the root causes and, indeed, even the pathway that leads to such a disease.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

I love the outdoors! If I don’t get outside at all in a day, I tend to get very restless.

HobbyMore specifically though, I play soccer and tennis pretty regularly as well as general fitness activities such as running and working out at the gym. I also love playing the guitar and singing.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  1. I am against the smartphone culture and thus own a flip phone (and an MP3 player)!
  2. My family is from Taiwan.
  3. I absolutely love thunderstorms and rain.

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Cecilia Bove

Graduate School

This is the fifth post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Cecilia Bove, who just began her graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this semester.

Meet Cecilia:

When a young scientist meets Instagram

Meet Cecilia!

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I am from Abruzzo, a region in east-central Italy. The city in which I was born is surrounded by mountains, so cold and winter are my best friends! I attended college in the wonderful city of Perugia (go Griffins!). I just graduated in Medical Biotechnology and I am currently a Ph.D. student in the neuroscience program.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

My very first day in lab!It happened in high school. The teacher I had at that time explained to us how DNA replicates and started talking about Biotechnology. It was love at first sight! I was able to appreciate this field of study only during the first years of university, where I received the confirmation that doing research was my life-long goal.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

First-year here! I officially became a graduate student at Penn State only ten days ago. I am sure I will not betray electrophysiology during this wonderful experience here, but I still have not worn my brand-new lab coat!

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

A quick self-portrait!My hobbies are deeply embedded in arts. The first thing that I learned was how to draw and I still do it in my spare time! Having a father who plays music, I have been stimulated since childhood to listen to music and play it, so I play piano, but I need to re-teach myself. I release stressful thoughts by writing and I recently started to do yoga for that reason. Baking and cooking help a lot too! But, one thing that I really enjoy during my free time is… NERD ALERT…playing board and videogames!

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

1) I am a crazy cat lady.

2) I have perfect pitch.

3) I have such a bad sense of direction that I could easily lose myself in my apartment!

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Jaclyn Welles

Graduate School

This is the fourth post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Jaclyn Welles, who will be starting her graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this fall.

Meet Jaclyn:

j1

Meet Jaclyn!

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I am from Bronx, New York. I went to college in Atlanta, Georgia at Clark Atlanta University where I completed my B.S. in Biology. Afterwards I completed a research post-baccalaureate program at the University of Alabama – Birmingham where I studied transcription factors and metabolism.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

I have always known that my life would lead me to a career in either medicine or science. It took me two internships and a post-bacc, however, to fully appreciate all that research had to give.  It was at my research pos-bacc that I ended up in a transcriptional genomics lab, and for the first time, I felt at a loss for words. I couldn’t believe that I had never encountered functional genomics, transcription factors, and metabolomics before. Everything clicked into place, and I just knew that molecular genetics was the area toward which I had always been striving.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

Since I am now entering Penn State this summer as a graduate student, I have yet to actually choose a lab. However, I believe that when I do find a lab, I will aspire to continue pursuing research in molecular genetics. I am also very interested in the personalized medicine facilities here. It is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Penn State to begin with.

The genes found in our bodies are not only fundamentally important because they help make us who we are, but also because many of the diseases in existence today only exist due to slight differentiations within our genetic makeup. I truly feel that the keys to solving most diseases will all be found within the map that is our genome, and that it will be up to scientists like us to discover them one day.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

j2I am first and foremost a huge foodie! I will try any food at least once with pleasure.  I am also a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I just recently tried kayaking & although my arms hated me for it 4 miles later, I loved it! I also love to run. I ran track for four years and the habit never left me.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  1. I love scary movies. Come Halloween, I will be your go-to girl!
  2. My entire family is from Ghana, West Africa.
  3. I love to dance!

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Caitlin McMenamin

Graduate School

This is the third post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Caitlin McMenamin, a 3rd-year graduate student in the Anatomy program.

Meet Caitlin:

c1

Meet Caitlin!

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

Watch out — Jersey girl coming through! I grew up on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, a place where many people vacation, but I call home year round. For undergrad, I decided to explore below the Mason-Dixon line and attended James Madison University (Go Dukes!). I graduated with a major in Kinesiology and Biology, with a concentration in Exercise Science. I then came to Penn State College of Medicine to pursue a PhD in Human Anatomy. I am a rising 3rd year grad student in a lab in the Neural and Behavioral Sciences Department. So, I really consider myself an anatomist and neuroscientist.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

c2I’m not going to lie—if I were asked 5 years ago where I thought I would be and what I would be doing, it would not have been this. I thought I wanted to be a physical therapist for the longest time. It turned out I HATED it! After taking Anatomy & Physiology class in undergrad, I fell in love with the human body. It really is the most amazing thing. I then began searching for graduate schools to continue studying this newfound passion. I was not looking forward to doing research when I began the program in Hershey. Little did I know I would fall in love with that too! There are so many questions that have yet to be answered in science and we are sent on a mission to find the missing puzzle pieces. Research really is fun and everyday is one step closer to finding answers.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

My thesis work is on how a perinatal high fat diet affects central vagal neurocircuits supplying the GI tract. It has been known that a maternal high fat diet predisposes offspring to obesity. Most of these patients have gastrointestinal problems as well, oftentimes exacerbating the outcome of obesity and associated diseases such as Type II diabetes. I focus on the area of the brainstem that supplies motor innervation to the GI tract and how the diet affects the function of these nerves in rats. A typical day in the lab is anywhere from recording membrane properties from neurons via electrophysiology, to performing surgeries and microinjections into areas of the brainstem, to doing immunohistochemistry to examine different markers in the CNS. Gotta keep it interesting, right?

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

I’m an avid runner/gym rat who works out really hard to then sit down and eat a whole cake. I love going to the shooting range, then getting a pedicure. Hiking. Paddleboarding/kayaking are activities that living near salt water has instilled in me. I also love dancing anywhere, any time.  Is napping a hobby? If so — then yes, that too.

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I was president of the sewing club in high school—yes, that’s a thing.
  • Pear-scented anything makes me happy.
  • Condiments freak me out.

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Nathalie Fuentes

Graduate School
Portrait1

Meet Nathalie!

This is the second post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. Next up is Nathalie Fuentes, who will be starting her graduate studies at Penn State College of Medicine this fall. 

Meet Nathalie: 

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

¡Hola! I am originally from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I did my undergraduate studies in Biochemistry with a minor in Linguistics at Iowa State University. Go Cyclones! I am an upcoming 1st-year graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at Penn State College of Medicine.

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

My research started at the age of 5 with my first scientific fair. I have always been very curious; I researched plants, created a motor to produce electricity, analyzed the sound of a frog, and investigated pathogens in caves. It was during high school, and thanks to the NIH-STEP-UP program and to the International Scientific Fair, that I was able to perform molecular research. I fell in love with biochemistry during my first undergraduate internship at Penn State.

Lab PhotoIn an effort to soothe the patients, I also led a group of volunteers to help paint the walls in the Division of Pediatrics. One of the patients looked into my eyes and tried to tell me that she could not paint. This was a pivotal emotional moment that made me want to explore biochemical processes that govern the functioning of diseases. Once again, my desire to commit to the biomedical sciences field was reinforced.

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

Since I am an upcoming graduate student, I have not chosen an official research group yet, but I have an idea of what I would like to do. It was during my internships where I refined my research interest in biochemical and molecular mechanisms in tumor suppression, signal transduction pathways, gene expression and chromatin remodeling. This type of research helps to answer an important question: what is the mechanism behind diseases? Understanding a disease at a molecular level could lead to the development of new drugs and treatments.

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

Karate PhotoI think it is necessary to have a balance in life. During my free time, I enjoy providing guidance and mentoring to the next generation of scientists. I have helped high school students in networking with faculty, as well as providing academic support and fellowship to students aspiring to do research. I also LOVE to dance! I am a Salsa/Bachata dancer. I also LOVE to eat, especially cheese pizza!

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I speak Spanish, English and a little bit of American Sign Language and Portuguese!
  • I was raised on an island, but I DON’T know how to swim!
  • I am a yellow belt in Taekwondo!

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist: Lina Jamis

Graduate School
lina

Meet Lina!

This is the first post in our “Meet a Scientist” series. First up is Lina Jamis, a graduate student in the Anatomy program at Penn State College of Medicine. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve probably read many of her posts — most recently, her piece on virtual reality for the blog award.

Without further ado, meet Lina Jamis:

Let’s get to know you a bit! Where are you from, what did you study in college, and what is your role at Penn State College of Medicine?

I hail from Potomac MD, which is a suburb very near Washington, D.C. I grew up with the best of both worlds. I went to Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!) where I studied Neurobiology. After graduating, I decided to pursue a Masters degree and I ended up at Penn State’s College of Medicine, where I study anatomy and physiology, and work in a molecular motors lab, studying the role of unconventional myosins in human sensory systems.

lab

Working hard…or hardly working?

Why did you decide to become a scientist?

I think my feelings on science can be best summarized by Eugene P. Kennedy, who wrote an article in the Annual Review of Biochemistry in 1992:

“The anonymity that is the fate of nearly every scientist as the work of one generation blends almost without a trace into that of the next is a small price to pay for its unending progress, the great long march of human reason…To feel that one has contributed to this splendid enterprise, on however small a scale, is reward enough for labor at the end of the day.”

What do you research at Penn State, and why is it important?

I study the role of an unconventional class III myosin protein that has been localized to neurosensory epithelia; specifically, the stereocilia of the inner and outer hair cells of the ear. Its presence and function are critical to the process of hearing; without it, deafness ensues.

crossfit

Crossfitting it up!

What are some of your hobbies outside the lab?

  • Crossfit
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Reading multiple books at the same time
  • Writing poetry

Tell us three random facts about yourself!

  • I’m an identical triplet (we’re all ladies)
  • I own four direwolves
  • I’m actually an old woman in the body of a 25 year-old

 

Stay tuned for a new interview next week! And if you’re a Penn State College of Medicine scientist interested in participating, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

Meet a Scientist — sign up now!

Graduate School

Contrary to popular belief, not all scientists are balding, bespectacled men in white lab coats holding bubbling green test tubes.

10153767_452242308239083_7237143635612730590_nSo let’s show them who #WeAre!

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Meet a Scientist” interview right here on Lions Talk Science, e-mail Lions-Talk-Science@psu.edu for details!

We’ll ask some standard questions about your work, why you decided to become a scientist, etc. But what we really want to know is: who are you outside the lab? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Fun photos and videos are a bonus!

And don’t worry — whether or not you’ve contributed to the blog in the past, we’re still interested in telling your story.

Contact us with any questions. We’re looking forward to learning more about you!