Hi! My name is Barbara Szynal, and I am a current first year PhD student in UIC’s Graduate Education in Medical Sciences (GEMS) program. My training includes a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Polish Studies from Loyola University Chicago, where I proudly led my own research project for 3 years. My research in Dr. Kenneth Olsen’s lab consisted of synthesizing novel photodynamic therapy agents and testing them in cell culture and zebrafish models. I was honored to be able to present my findings at 3 different symposia. In this position, I was both a mentor and mentee, and I continue to guide undergraduates in the lab as they push the project further. During my undergrad studies, I also participated in a summer internship at Vetter Pharma, a pharmaceutical contract manufacturing company. The following summer I was invited by Vetter to work as a quality control microbiologist until I began graduate school.
My proudest achievements in my career thus far include the pharma industry positions as well as my undergraduate research and mentorship. Through these experiences, I discovered that my professional goal is to lead the discovery of novel pharmaceuticals in industry. However, through my participation in the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative, I anticipate that I will be introduced to many other alternative careers that may expand my future goals. Being the first in my family to attend institutions of higher education in the US, I have had a unique insight into the hardships many students in my position, especially women, face. I hope that through my participation in the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative and my experience as a research mentor I will be able to encourage fellow girls and women in the sciences along their paths.