Women in STEM: Kirsten Edepli, PhD

Specialty: Cancer Biology [CAB], Developmental and Stem Cell Biology [DSCB]

Current position/s: Associate Professor, Medicine, Liver Diseases; Associate Professor, Developmental and Regenerative Biology


  1. Can you describe what inspired your interest in science?

Since high school, I’ve been to science. I always thought I’d become a medical doctor. While in high school, I took an AP science class that had a research project component. The research project opened my eyes to the scientific discovery process where you begin with an idea, experiment, and then test to see if it’s true. I was fascinated by the process and the fact that you could learn first if something was true rather than reading it in a book.

I attended Mount Holyoke College, which is an all-women’s college in Massachusetts. It’s a small college and the professors were very close to the students. Since it is an all-women’s college, I never experienced bias because of my gender. During my time there I focused on both psychiatry and biology and realized that my passion lies in biology, so that was where I decided to direct my focus.

Eventually I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor, but rather be a scientist. It’s a very social and open profession which allowed me to be creative and see results.  I was accepted to Harvard PhD program, which was like a sign that this was what I had to do.

  1. What engages you the most about your research?

My field has changed a lot since I first started in it. At first it was all about new discoveries. Today I have an opportunity to work on other areas, especially with post docs and junior faculty. Today I enjoy the new discoveries, but also the mentorship and working with young people and sharing in their enthusiasm.

I’m passionate about empowering women working in science and encouraging young girls to excel in science. As a working mother I feel that the job has to be really good in order for me to leave my kids. Many women rise up and say that scientific jobs are not worth compromising family life. Scientific jobs are not glamorous and there are few perks or promotions. Many women feel that if there isn’t satisfaction and happiness in the job, women will leave the field. I’m moving to NYU and there is a program called Women Empowered in STEM. I’m a faculty mentor. It’s a support group run by students and they plan to do further work in high schools. I’m moving with NYU to Abu Dhabi and I want to create a network of women in STEM over there!

  1. Do you currently have a mentor? Describe how a mentor has been of professional and/or academic assistance to you as you’ve strived to fulfill your career goals

I had two mentors in college and high school. They always encouraged me and made me feel that I could accomplish anything. My mentors were not just cheerleaders, but also coaches. They encouraged me to work hard and called me out on occasions where my work wasn’t good. A good mentor also teaches you how to mentor others and leads by example.

  1. What is one of your more challenging career experiences?

In graduate school I was doing both medical school and PhD work. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a really difficult time for me. She died within two months. I couldn’t continue with medical school and I bounced from lab to lab and couldn’t find a place to finish my PhD work. The school allowed me to take a few months off, so I took this time to think about what I could I do if I couldn’t become a scientist. I thought about many professions, even being a florist and a cook! After a while I realized that the lab is my place and that’s what I should be doing. It’s my passion and my vocation and I couldn’t do anything else in life.

  1. What advice would you give to other aspiring female scientists?

Science has to be a choice. Explore your options and think about everything you love to do and how science fits with that. Also, think about your family and your children and understand that science is a commitment.

ISMMS Collaborations with Corporations around the World

By Gali Halevi, MLS, PhD and Robin Milford, MSIS

Academic and corporate collaborations are vital to the development of drugs, medical equipment and various therapeutic procedures. In this article we explored the main corporations with which ISMMS collaborates with. Using Scopus, we retrieved all publications that have at least one ISMMS author and at least one corporate author from 2010 to 2015. Overall, we analyzed 585 co-authored publications. Our results show that ISMMS collaborated with 83 corporations worldwide between 2010 and 2015.

As can be seen in table 1, most of the co-authored papers are between North American and European corporations and ISMMS authors. However, there are several collaborations between Asian and Middle Eastern corporations.

Region totals Collaborating Institutions Co-authored publications
Asia Pacific 9 17
Europe 24 160
Middle East 3 6
North America 47 435

Table 1: Regional collaborations between corporations and ISMMS authors

North American collaborations show 435 co-authored papers with 47 corporations. The top co-authored papers are between Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories, SAIC and Bristol-Myers Squibb (see figure 1).


Click to enlarge Graph 1: Corporate collaborations between ISMMS and American Corporations

An analysis of the titles of these co-authored publications reveals the main areas in which the collaborations took place which are HPV vaccine (Merck), overactive bladder control (Pfizer), Alzheimer Disease (Eli Lilly), Coronary Disease (Abbott Laboratories) and anti -rejection Kidney Transplant (Bristol-Myers Squibb)

European collaborations show 160 co-authored papers with 24 corporations.  The main corporations and areas of collaborative research are GlaxoSmithKline (HPV vaccine), Novartis (H1N1 vaccine), Sanofi-Aventis (Chemoradiography) and Bayer (hepatocellular carcinoma).


Click to enlarge Graph 2: Corporate collaborations between ISMMS and Asian Corporations

Women in STEM Interview Series: Dr. Cecilia Berin, PhD

Specialty: Food Allergy (Allergy/Immunology)

Current position/s: Associate Professor, Pediatrics; Team Leader, Berin Laboratory


  1. Can you describe what inspired your interest in science?

I had always intended to be a physician based on a somewhat naïve idea that it was a good career path and I had excelled in science and math in school. During my undergraduate studies in Life Sciences, my physiology and pathology courses sparked an interest to understand what happens when things go wrong in the human body, leading to disease. During a senior thesis project related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, I realized that this curiosity would be better satisfied by a career dedicated to biomedical research rather than patient care, and I chose to pursue graduate work in gastrointestinal physiology. I didn’t know any scientists growing up, so until I did bench research as a student I hadn’t really considered science as a career option.

  1. What engages you the most about your research?

I enjoy interpreting data, I am always eager to see the results of each experiment and to think about how our findings relate to disease (in my case, food allergy). But the most rewarding part of my job is mentoring. I love to see trainees get excited about their results, and it’s also very rewarding to see them get external validation of their work through fellowships, awards, or being selected to speak at conferences. A lot of the mentoring work is about encouraging them to keep going when experiments don’t work or results aren’t exciting.

  1. Do you currently have a mentor? Describe how a mentor has been of professional and/or academic assistance to you as you’ve strived to fulfill your career goals

I have many mentors, although I currently do not have a formal mentor. Mentors have played an invaluable part in my career. In my early career, it was very important to have mentors who believed in me and provided strong emotional support when things got difficult, because rejection and career uncertainty are unavoidable in science. I have had mentors who opened doors for me, either through financial support for my research, or through inviting me to be involved in collaborative projects, or who suggested a new research path that they thought I would be good at.

  1. What is one of your more challenging career experiences?

Dealing with aspects of running a lab that you don’t typically learn when you are a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow. These include many important administrative aspects (financial management and planning, keeping up with protocol approvals for conducting human subjects research or animal research) as well as management skills for ensuring that the lab is a productive and enjoyable workplace for all its members.

  1. What advice would you give to other aspiring female scientists?

Network as much as possible. Find scientists whose careers you admire and want to emulate. Find scientists who you enjoy collaborating with. Find scientists who will read your grant applications. This kind of networking can be difficult for some, but we can’t do science alone.

Learn more about Cecilia and the Berin Laboratory.

Women in STEM Interview Series: Emma Benn, MPH, DrPH

Specialty: Biostatistics

Current position/s: Assistant Professor in the Center for Biostatistics and Department of Population Health Science and Policy at ISMMS; Director of Academic Programs for the Center for Biostatistics; Co-Director of the MS in Biostatistics Program; Co-Director of the MPH in Biostatistics Track


 1. Can you describe what inspired your interest in science?

When I think back, I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not interested in science and mathematics. I can remember being so excited for the math competitions in elementary school and how amazing it felt to beat the boys. However, it took me quite a while to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my passion for science. For example, when I majored in Chemistry in college, I assumed that I would spend the rest of my life in drug development and innovation.

However, after working as a quality control chemist on the night shift for a pharmaceutical company upon graduating from Swarthmore College, I realized that chemistry wasn’t my passion. I decided to go to graduate school to get an MPH, since I wanted to gain a broader understanding about the major contributors to health. While I had been so caught up with drug development in college, I started wanting to learn more about the larger socio-structural factors that prevented some subgroups of the population from accessing the prescriptions and quality healthcare that they need in the first place. In other words, I knew that an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University would provide me with a more thorough understanding of a new language revolving around social epidemiology and the social determinants of health.

Yet, while I was pursuing my MPH, I took a few introductory statistics courses and started falling in love with this new knowledge I was gaining. As a Chemistry major, I had taken quite a bit of math, but it wasn’t until I took my first biostatistics course in graduate school that I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that biostatistics was the perfect mechanism by which I could link my love for mathematics, science, social epidemiology, and medicine. Once I had that eureka moment, I knew the next step for me would be to pursue a doctoral degree in Biostatistics. While my path to where I am now was a bit non-linear, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Science is so vast that sometimes you have to get exposed to many areas of science before you can find that one area, biostatistics in my case, that really clicks for you. 

  1. What engages you the most about your research?

As a Biostatistician in academic medicine I am always exposed to new research problems. It comes with the collaborative nature of my job. For example, I recently learned more about this econometrics-based statistical method and thought it was really interesting. However, I couldn’t figure out where I could apply it, since it hasn’t been applied very much in the clinical and translational sciences. Speaking to some of my colleagues, they suggested that I might be able to apply this method to cardiothoracic research. That led me to a really great collaboration in which I could use this interesting methodology to examine selection bias when racial/ethnic minorities and women are inadequately represented in cardiothoracic studies. With this collaboration, I get the opportunity to use my expertise to answer a research question that has important clinical and policy-related implications. I am always amazed at the new knowledge I gain by collaborating with others. It keeps me engaged because I never feel stagnant. I am always challenged to figure out how my statistical background can be used to answer complex, real-world, biomedical questions. This keeps me on my feet and always keeps me striving to learn more.

  1. Do you currently have a mentor? Describe how a mentor has been of professional and/or academic assistance to you as you’ve strived to fulfill your career goals

When I first started as a faculty member at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, I don’t think I really surrounded myself with sufficient mentors. It took about a year or so for me to learn that I was going to need to reach out to more senior faculty to ensure that I was on the right track with respect to meeting both the short-term and long-term career goals that I had set for myself. Now, I have quite a few mentors who are both within and outside of Mount Sinai. They have been extremely helpful in keeping me grounded and also helping me success in academia, while also making sure that I maintain a healthy work-life balance. For example, at one point, I felt very isolated because I didn’t know many Biostatisticians of color. After attending a Diversity in Biostatistics Workshop at the Joint Statistical Meetings about two years ago, I was able to network with a whole community of Biostatistics faculty of color, mostly females, from other institutions and a couple of these faculty eventually became great mentors for me.

Also, more recently, I was invited to be the Program Chair of an important section of the American Statistical Association. At first, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me, especially since it would increase my visibility nationally and internationally. Also, having a leadership position like this, I thought, would be perfect on my CV when I go up for promotion. However, after reaching out to a couple mentors, they reminded me about all of the other leadership positions I already have (e.g. co-Director of the MS in Biostatistics Program at Mount Sinai) in addition to my research projects. Just speaking with my mentors first helped to put things in perspective for me and really helped me to understand that the invitation to be Program Chair was really wonderful, but that it might be detrimental at this earlier stage in my career.

  1. What is one of your more challenging career experiences?

This is a difficult question to answer considering I have encountered many challenges throughout my career. However, I think the biggest challenge is recovering from rejection. You often don’t always get what you want in this field the first time around. For example, I may think that I have a great idea for a research proposal, however, the study section reviewing my research proposal might not think that my research project is solid enough or innovative enough for funding. Or, maybe my colleagues and I think that our study findings are perfect for publication in a top-tier journal, but ultimately get rejected shortly after submitting our manuscript. At first, this can be really frustrating because you have such high hopes. However, what I’ve realized is that it’s important to be able to learn from rejection. Often times, someone else might see flaws that you never even noticed and once those flaws are revealed to you, you dust yourself off, revamp, and come up with an even better proposal or manuscript. Also, sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a better match, like another funding agency for my research proposal or a different journal for my publication. So now, I have begun to look at rejection as just a catalyst for revision, not an end point.

  1. What advice would you give to other aspiring female scientists?

There are three major tips that I would give to aspiring female scientists. First, surround yourself with people who see your potential and consistently provide you with encouragement. That way, if there is a brief moment when you doubt your ability to rise above your challenges, the positive people you surround yourself with will give you the motivation to keep moving forward. Second, always remember that you are a scientist first who happens to be female, rather than the other way around. That way, you stay confident even when you encounter situations when someone unfortunately negates your scientific brilliance because of your gender (and race/ethnicity for females of color). Lastly, always keep nurturing your love for science by learning as much as you can about your field. This will help to strengthen your foundation, while also keeping you up to date about the newest discoveries. This is very important if you aspire to be a future leader in your field.


Information Visualization

By Laura Childs, Levy Library Intern

As a library science graduate student at Pratt Institute, I have always focused more on the “library” than the “science” – until now.  One requirement for earning my degree is to demonstrate certain advanced tech skills.  In order to meet this requirement, I am taking a class called Information Visualization in which I am learning theories and principles of effectively communicating information through visual methods.  More simply, this means figuring out how to synthesize large amounts of abstract data into user-friendly visuals that users can easily interpret and interact with.


Graphs created by Laura Childs using Tableau

Coming from a humanities background, thinking in terms of statistics and visual design is a challenge and I was initially unsure of how learning these skills would help me in my career as an academic librarian.  Interning at the Levy Library, along with learning more about academic librarianship in school, has made it apparent that creating visualizations is very relevant to the work done by librarians in universities.

Turning data into consumable information will benefit students and librarians, as well as faculty and other university staff.  As academic librarians become more involved in instruction and collaborate more with professors, it is increasingly important to be able to communicate information to students beyond the traditional lecture.  Visualizations can help in this regard, and are also useful for more behind-the scenes work.  For example, we can further help faculty measure their scholarly impact, track our own library metrics, and present research findings in compelling ways – especially in a medical library like this.  I am far from being skilled in “info vis,” but I am motivated to get as far as I can.  Fortunately, there is a lot of inspiration to be found in the great work done here at the Levy Library.


Few, S. (2005).  Effectively Communicating Numbers: Selecting the Best Means and Manner of Display.  Retrieved from https://www.perceptualedge.com/articles/Whitepapers/Communicating_Numbers.pdf

Register today – Letting Go of Stress for Health Professionals: Mediation and Mindfulness with Kadam Morten Clausen

By Robin Milford, MSIS, and Gali Halevi, PhD, MLS

In an effort to promote and encourage wellness among all members of the Mount Sinai community, the library is pleased to host a mindfulness workshop – Letting Go of Stress: Mediation and Mindfulness with Kadam Morten Clausen.

Workshop description – 

Few things can be more debilitating than ongoing stress. We all know what a toll it takes. What we might not know is that there are extremely effective methods that we can enage in to help us reduce our feeling of inner tension, and even eliminate them altogether.

Simple meditation techniques will help us to develop a more supple mind and body. This has been proven. By learning how to reduce the distracting and oen painful chatter in our mind and instead abide in a quiet and more tranquil state, we shift our experience from one of frantic worry and concern to something altogether more peaceful. And more effective. This is where true healing takes place.

Date: November 10th, 2015

Time: 3:00pm-4:30pm

Register here to save your seat.

Complimentary tea & coffee will be served at 2:30pm.


Women in STEM Interview Series: Dr. Katherine Chen

By Robin Milford, MSIS and Gali Halevi, PhD, MLS

A recent study published by the Harvard Business Review highlights barriers that still exist for women entering STEM. Others argue that the gender gap in STEM is “overblown.” What does it mean to be a woman in STEM today? In this interview series, we’ll talk with some of the women at the heart of the STEM debate – female scientists at Mount Sinai Health System. Some interviews will be brief, some will be longer. Whether they’re doing innovative genomics research or providing exemplary patient care, these scientists will undoubtedly have significant insight about the challenges, joys, and realities of working in STEM.



Name: Katherine Chen, MD MPH

Specialty: Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science

Current position/s: Associate Professor, Vice Chair of Education, and Director of Medical Student Clerkship in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Education: MD, Harvard Medical School

Residency, OB-GYN Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

  1. Can you describe what inspired your interest in science?

Parents: father physicist and mother nurse midwife.

Knack in grade school, high school, and college with science classes.

Apprenticeship with pediatrician in hometown.

  1. What engages you the most about your research?

Fun topic – mobile applications in Ob-Gyn

Enthusiastic research team of nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty at Sinai and other academic institutions.

Making discoveries

  1. Do you currently have a mentor? Describe how a mentor has been of professional and/or academic assistance to you as you’ve strived to fulfill your career goals.

Yes, I do have several mentors – chair people across the country, researchers, leaders in medical education.

  1. What is one of your more challenging career experiences?

Being offered a job from one academic institution, accepting the offer, and then having to decline as another academic institution gave a counter offer.

  1. What advice would you give to other aspiring female scientists?

Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Keep publishing.

Say “No, thank you…” to committees and positions that do not advance your career.


Learn more about Dr. Chen on the Mount Sinai Medicine Matters blog.