Dr. Jennifer L. Stripay, Postdoctoral Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
What program(s) and lab(s) were you part of while at the University of Rochester?
Neuroscience Graduate Program, Noble Lab (Department of Biomedical Genetics)
What activities, outreach, and trainings were you involved with while attending the University of Rochester?
Throughout my training at the University of Rochester, I was involved in a number of programs and initiatives. I worked with the Graduate Student Society to coordinate several professional development events and eventually became a student representative with the then newly established Center for Professional Development (CPD). I was appointed to University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Alumni Council as the PhD student representative in 2013 and held that position until graduating in 2016. I was elected President of the Council in 2017 and will serve in that leadership role for the 2018-2020 term. Alongside a fellow classmate, I developed the Neuroscience Graduate Program Bootcamp program to help welcome and prepare new NGP admits. I was also a co-founder of the Predoctoral Organization for the Neurosciences (PONs) which created opportunities for graduate and medical students interested in the neurosciences to come together in structured and informal forums to discuss research and clinical advances. I served on the leadership team for Brain Awareness Week, a national initiative to introduce neuroscience to students in local elementary and high schools. I also sat on the board for the Rochester Chapter of the Society of Neuroscience. In my final year at URMC, I participated in CubeTHNK, a student-run consulting group that performed due diligence for companies seeking investment from NY Medical Angels and conducted market research for UR spin-off and local start-up companies.
Did you participate in anything that helped shape your experience beyond the bench?
In addition to the robust scientific training I received at the University of Rochester, my experiences beyond the bench related to community outreach, institutional service, and leadership helped bolster my repertoire of transferable skills. I was able to receive valuable training in management, communication, and team building which undoubtedly contributed to my development as a scientist and a professional.
Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now. Where you live, work, etc.
I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Martine Roussel’s lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Department of Tumor Cell Biology. My current research is focused on defining the epigenetic landscape of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant pediatric brain tumor. I am using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, next generation sequencing, and bioinformatics approaches to define disease drivers and identify new actionable targets. My team is also involved in preclinical modeling and therapeutic development, providing critical data to help design clinical trials at the institution.
I live in downtown Memphis, Tennessee – just a few miles from Arkansas and Mississippi. In addition to my work at St. Jude, I am also involved in the Junior League of Memphis, an organization committed to serving our Memphis/Mid-South community and empowering women. I serve on the leadership board for the regional Penn State Alumni Chapter (my undergrad alma mater) and remain committed to the University of Rochester in my role as President of the SMD Alumni Council.
What brought you to the University of Rochester?
When I was exploring graduate schools, I focused on interdisciplinary programs with unique training initiatives, strong scientific research, and a track record of alumni engagement and success. Interested in stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and translational research, I was immediately drawn to the collaborative team of Dr. Mark Noble, Dr. Margot Mayer-Proschel, and Dr. Chris Proschel. When I interviewed at the University of Rochester, I found the environment one rich with enthusiasm, professionalism, and rigor. The students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program were a community in every sense, and the faculty were genuinely invested in their mentees’ development. After speaking with Dr. Noble, it became clear that not only was U of R a great fit, but that his research group was an excellent training ground in scientific discovery and innovation.
What did you do right after you left the University of Rochester?
After I defended my PhD in July of 2016, I took a temporary post doc appointment in my graduate lab before accepting an offer for a fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in December 2016.
How did your experience at the University of Rochester shape your career path?
My experience at the University of Rochester was marked by unparalleled opportunities to train in translational discovery, management and strategic planning, and program development. I was equipped with the tools to engage thoughtfully and substantially to the translational team here at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and given the foundation on which to build a career focused on navigating projects through preclinical, clinical, and commercial pipelines.
What is your favorite Meliora moment and why?
(Definition: Meliora is not just our University’s motto, it’s an ethic that we share as a community, a way of life that unites us in a common bond and a powerful description of who we are and what we value. Share the moment or moments that made you “ever better.”)
Serving as the President of SMD Alumni Council is both a humbling and rewarding experience. I was honored to be elected by my fellow council members in 2017 and have grown exponentially as a leader in the past year. In the spirit of Meliora, I have encountered so many moments in this role that challenge me to be more innovative, patient, resourceful, and thoughtful with regard to programming and professional relationships. Navigating the formal requirements and engagements of the council, in addition to its evolving role in fostering alumni engagement, has challenged me to be ever better as a member of the U of R community.
What advice or insights do you have for U of R alumni and current graduate students and trainees?
So often as scientists, we want a clear plan with defined end goals and a prescribed path to success. What I have learned is that opportunity can rarely be predicted. It has served me well to jump at each and every networking exchange, leadership role, and training experience. In addition to a robust scientific foundation, I was able to expand my transferable skill set by taking advantage of the other programming and resources that U of R has to offer. I also advocate non-stop networking – you never know when someone you meet at a conference or event might be able to facilitate a connection for future career goals or advancement.
What would you say to a prospective graduate student or postdoc who is considering the University of Rochester?
The University of Rochester provides a strong training environment for graduate students in a variety of disciplines. In addition to the esteemed faculty and robust research programs, U of R leads the way in providing opportunities to trainees related to professional development, community outreach, and leadership training. Whether you’re working in one of our Centers for Excellence in an interdisciplinary team or engaging in training beyond the bench in our URBEST program, you will absolutely encounter invaluable challenges and experiences that help shape both your personal and professional development as a scientist. The community of support and advocacy that Rochester provides is unparalleled, and the emphasis on creating a robust graduate experience is apparent.
Provide a short statement to encourage fellow alumni to develop their SMD Alumni Spotlight.
There is no better resource for current students, recent graduates, and esteemed alumni, than our U of R community. From networking opportunities to career advice, nostalgic reflection to honored remembrance, expanding our alumni network is critical in fostering the ethic of Meliora. I encourage all alumni to contribute their alumni spotlight as we strive to collate diverse perspectives and insights into the U of R experience and beyond.