Name: Coro Paisan-Ruiz, PhD
Specialty: Human Geneticist
Current position/s: Assistant Professor of Neurology, Genetics and Genomic Sciences, and Psychiatry
- Can you describe what inspired your interest in science?
Although my parents, both pediatricians, have always encouraged me to study medicine and become a clinician, I have always been passionate about medical sciences and decided to have a career in Biomedical research. The field of biology has given me the opportunity to further develop my passion about science as well as contribute to the improvement of patients’ health, as the discovery of disease-causing gene helps us to understand the pathological process of a disease and to develop improved therapeutic treatments.
- What engages you the most about your research?
To identify a new disease-causing gene can take from several months to several years, and the longer it takes the more stressful it gets. However, once you find a disease gene the disease-related processes are immediately better-understood and new lines of investigation, which not only engages you and your research but also other researches in the field of study, are opened. This achievement provides you with a strong commitment to better understand the disease-associated pathophysiology.
- 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 am very fortunate because I did have very good mentors who have played a valuable role in my career development. I feel that in academia having a mentor that believes in you as a scientist and encourages you to follow your own scientific ideas is essential, as there are many occasions where we face rejections and other lack of support. Although I currently do not have a formal mentor, I seek for advice from more senior people whenever I feel down or need further support and encourage. I am also continuously learning from other scientists around me that serve me as example.
- What is one of your more challenging career experiences?
One of my more challenging experience was when I first moved to the USA from Spain to finalize my PhD project due to the lack of enough financial support to continue my PhD project in Spain. It was really difficult for me to leave my family behind and worked in a foreign country for the first time when I barely spoke English. Since I was by myself (my husband stayed working in Spain), I worked really hard to finish my PhD project and come back to Spain as soon as possible. However, I decided to stay in the USA to continue with my post-doctoral research after finalizing my PhD project, because what began as a very challenging situation later became a very enriching learning experience. So, I am very grateful of the opportunity I did have to come to the USA, as it was in the end a very rewarding experience.
As a junior faculty I also found running your own lab and mentoring new scientists very challenging. There are so many tasks to do (i.e., reviews, grants, administrative tasks, collaborations, research, manuscripts, and so on) so you need to be super organized and prioritize important work. At the same time you need to build an enjoyable lab environment where everyone is happy, learning, and productive. Balancing family and work is also difficult especially at the beginning of the motherhood when you want to spend more time with your baby/family but without compromising your productivity at work.
- What advice would you give to other aspiring female scientists?
I think that in general, there are many challenging experiences during the entire academic process. Getting your first R01, building a happy and productive lab are all challenging and sometimes stressful experiences, but at the same time they are so rewarding. I would tell aspiring female scientists that this path may not be easy sometimes, but when you work hard, and are passionate about what you do, good things will come. It is also important to seek advice from more senior scientists and collaborate with scientists with whom you feel comfortable. I think we are extremely fortunate to do what we really love and we should take this opportunity to the fullest.