Rocking Graduate School: How One Student Picked Schools and Prepared

Oct. 9, 2019

Graduate school is a rigorous experience full of scientific training, research and presentations. The ASM Capstone Research Fellowship provides graduate students with presentation skills, peer networking opportunities and access to professionals in various disciplines in the microbial sciences.

Tammy Gonzalez is an ASM Capstone Research Fellow and a 6th year Medical Scientist and Ph.D. student in Immunology at the University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine. Tammy received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Dakota in Medical Laboratory Sciences. She reflects on her experience as a graduate student, tells us about her research and her best tips as an ASM Capstone Fellow.

When and how did your passion for science start?

My passion for science started from a young age, I was always interested in how the human body worked and interestingly enough, I loved astronomy. When I was in high school, my aunt, a medical microbiologist, took me to work with her so that I could see what her job was like. I discovered my love for microbiology by working with her.

What kind of research did you do as an undergraduate student?

I was a medical laboratory sciences major at the University of North Dakota. During my sophomore year of college, I took a job in a microbiology lab that was determining the efficacy of various vaccine candidates for the pathogen that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi.

Tell us about your current research and what you are studying.

Tammy Gonzalez conducting research in the lab.
Tammy Gonzalez conducting research in the lab.
I study the skin microbiome in children with the chronic inflammatory skin condition, atopic dermatitis (commonly known as eczema). In particular, we aim to understand the microbial ecology of the skin at both affected and unaffected sites. We also examine particular strains of Staphylococcus aureus, which has been shown to contribute to inflammation in these lesions. Also, we study the temporal changes that occur in the skin microbiome in children with atopic dermatitis using metagenomic shotgun sequencing, and how those changes contribute to the severity of disease.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? How did you pick the schools you wanted to apply to and the university you are now attending?

I have always wanted to go to medical school, but once I began working in research, I realized that I also wanted to do clinically-relevant research. I chose schools with strong M.D./Ph.D. training programs that have training grants from the National Institutes of Health. I also looked for institutions that had strong research faculty who were excited about mentoring students. It was also important to me that the institution embraced diversity in both students and faculty.

What are some surprises you found being a graduate student?

I found it surprising how much of graduate school was not only generating great and interesting data, but presenting your data! Your greatest data and accomplishments don’t mean as much if you don’t know how to convey your message. The ASM Capstone Fellowship is a program dedicated to professional development and training on how to give clear and concise presentations. You can take that advice into action at ASM Microbe. I highly recommend the ASM Capstone Fellowship if you want to improve your presentation, collaboration and networking skills – all which helps you become an overall better graduate student.

How has being an ASM Capstone Fellow contributed to your experience as a graduate student?

Since the ASM Capstone Fellowship, I was able to present in two Microbe meetings and participate in the Microbe Academy for Professional Development. This has impacted how I present my research, and I was able to get valuable feedback from microbiologists from a variety of professions. The Capstone Fellowship allowed me to grow as a trainee by addressing many different topics from science to ethics and diversity. It was a good way to interact with other trainees from other institutions and learn from their experiences in graduate school. I have been able to share my experiences as well. Also, I have met many people that I still keep in touch with today.

Author: ASM Careers

ASM Careers
How can you make the challenges of a microbiology career just a bit less stressful? One way: Reach out to colleagues for advice, support and inspiration. ASM Careers helps you do just that - virtually!