Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Interview with Monica Tassone - Past YSP Summer Focus Participant

YSP just wrapped up yet another outstanding year of Summer Focus (SF), and a question that comes up during this time is how the program’s participants fare in their post-SF futures.  Do the students look back fondly on their SF days and credit the summer for starting their science careers?  Or do they breathe a sigh of relief that their experience doing research in the lab is over and they can now live science-free lives?  To help answer these questions, this month YSP caught up with Monica Tassone, who participated in SF in 2000, to see how one of our alumni is doing and to give us some insight about her experience back then.

Peggy Ni: Why did you decide to participate in the YSP SF program? 
Monica Tassone: I had known I was interested in studying biology since middle school so when my chemistry teacher in high school told us about the YSP Summer Focus program I knew I should apply. 

PN: Could you briefly describe the project you worked on or the general research the lab did?
MT: The project I worked on involved cloning and characterization of a protein that was found to interact with the Niemann-Pick C1 (NPC1) protein.  Many of the molecular biology techniques that I learned during the project are still things I use in my current job.   

PN: What do you most remember about SF? 
MT: What I remember most about SF was mostly the experience of working in the lab.  This was my first hands on experience of lab work and it felt so right.  I just remember thinking this is what I want … as a career without a doubt.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity in the SF program.  It really helped me figure out my career path and stay focused on my career goals.  I have never doubted my interest in science research as a career and it all started with the SF program. 

PN: Looking back, what was the most important thing you learned in SF that has helped you either in life or for a career?
MT: One of the most important things I learned during the Summer Focus program was how to troubleshoot things that aren't working.  I think one of the most important lessons for any scientist to learn is how to deal with projects that aren't working out as you would have expected.  It is a difficult lesson to learn as we all want things to work the way we expect them to the first time but that is rarely the case in science.  Even though the project I worked on didn't work out exactly how we expected I learned a lot about how to logically think through options and alternatives and not just get frustrated and give up. 

PN: Could you talk about whether aspects of SF – such as seeing hands-on how lab research is conducted, interacting with graduate students, etc. – had any impact on your career decisions?
MT: I learned a lot from the graduate students that I worked with during SF.  Not only did I learn about science research but they also taught me about what it takes to get into graduate school and succeed.  Their advice helped guide me in college and graduate school planning. 

PN: If you don't mind, could you share with us YSP volunteers what you have been doing since SF?    
MT: Since the YSP summer focus program I went on to Truman State University and obtained a B.S. in Biology.  As an undergraduate I participated in two summer research programs one at the University of Missouri-Columbia and another back at Washington University in St. Louis.  Then I went to graduate school at University of California-Davis and obtained a M.S. in Cell and Developmental Biology.  Since graduation in 2008 I have been employed at Novozymes, Inc. a biotechnology company in Davis, California. 


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