Blanca Gutierrez-Diaz

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I am a third year PhD student in the Driskill Graduate Program (DGP). I work in the Ntziachristos Lab that belongs the Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Department and the Hematology and Oncology Department at downtown campus.My work focuses on how post-translational modifications, especially ubiquitination and deubiquitination, affects cancer progression and response to chemotherapy in T-cellacute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) patients. Recently we published a paper in Clinical Cancer Research describing the important role of a deubiquitinase called USP7 on stabilizing NOTCH1, one of the main proteins involved in T-ALL pathogenesis. This year I also successfully passed my qualifying exams and got approved my thesis proposal, so for this year I am looking forward to keep working on my first author paper.I was born and raised in Mexico and I am the first person in my family to pursue a PhD.As a Fulbright scholar one of my biggest dreams is to become a top Hematology-Oncology researcher that can foster beneficial US-Mexico collaborations.As a part of a minority group in Science (Latino woman) I found appealing the idea of STEM Circuits. I see these groups as an opportunity to get to know better the scientific community in our university, to learn from the experience of more senior members and hopefully inspire other people to stay strong and pursue their goals.

Just Jump!!​

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Greetings, my name is Dr. Claudia B. Späni, and I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Professor Disterhoft’s laboratory at Northwestern University. Our lab investigates the effects aging has on our cognitive abilities. I currently serve as the Social Media Coordinator for the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative. As part of this position, I am responsible for LinkedIn, Twitter, and this blog.

My story starts in Switzerland, where I was born and raised. I always loved nature and animals, which motivated me to go to university and study biology. During my studies I became especially fascinated with behavior and neuroscience. When I was offered a Master’s position to study Alzheimer’s Disease, I didn’t have to think long before accepting this opportunity and I jumped right into it. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life, and I stayed on to do my PhD in the same lab. Following my PhD, I decided to pursue a Postdoctoral position at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY, USA. I often get asked why I left Switzerland (which yes is absolutely beautiful). The obvious answer, of course, was to enhance my career, but it was also so much more than that. I welcomed this thrill of an adventure. I wanted to prove to myself that I could survive in a new country all by myself while building a successful career in science. Before I had the chance to doubt myself, I jumped again, without ever having been to Kentucky or even America before. And here I am, three years later in Chicago doing my second Postdoc. This experience helped me build my self-confidence and encouraged me to challenge myself. This personal motto has encouraged me to apply for new grants and positions in the scientific community. As of this January, I began serving as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Postdoctoral Association. I am excited and proud to be able to give something back to the postdoctoral community.

I believe that we can all try to “just jump” a little more and ignore that little voice of self-doubt in our head. By believing in ourselves and giving our very-best we have the chance to achieve the impossible and to reinvent what we really are capable of.

I look forward to meeting all of you brave, intelligent, and kind-hearted women joining the initiative! I hope like me you are able to find inspiration, and support amongst our ever-growing community. Because I think together, we can achieve great things, if we just dare to jump!

Welcome to our blog!

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Introduction to the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative's Blog!

Are you looking to meet fellow supportive women in STEM fields within the Chicago area? If so, you are in the right place. Welcome to the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative! Here you will find information about our mission, our future goals, and ongoing events.

But who are “we”? “We” is me and you, all the women (and men) that share the goal of equal opportunity in our society, and especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (if you wondered what STEM stands for). Although “we” share the same values, “we” are all very different, “we” are the collective of all our members. The purpose of this blog is to highlight and celebrate the amazing people who make up the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative by sharing their stories and achievements.

We hope our stories will serve as a motivation for women and girls considering STEM fields as a career, but also as a reminder to the women out there, that you are not alone. We hope to emphasize the importance of following one’s dreams no matter the gender barrier. As a collective group we can help pave the road for generations of women to come so that one day there will be equal representation of men and women in STEM.

written by Claudia B. Späni, PhD, Social Media Coordinator