ASC Spring 2020 Service Project: Victoria Menache

(Top row, left to right:Andres Makarem, Said Salehe, Dr. Kim Tieu, Afzaal Nadeem Mohammad, and Hary Estrada )

(Bottom row, left to right:David Villanueva, Rebecca Z Fan, and myself)

[All Photos CC BY 4.0]

STUDENT BIO

My name is Victoria Menache and I am a currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics with a minor in Chemistry. My goal is to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. The arts and sciences have always been something I have been passionate about. I danced competitively for 9 years and have a tremendous respect and love for the art form that is dance and the arts. This passion stemmed from my grandfather as he was a doctor and a painter. He combined his two passions and that is what I plan to do in my future. I remember when I was younger, I used to be very scared of the doctor’s office so I aspire to be a pediatrician and incorporate the arts into making the doctor’s office not so terrifying to children.

WHO

Over the past two semesters, I have been volunteering in Dr. Kim Tieus laboratory at Florida International University. Dr. Tieu is a professor and the Department Chair at Florida International University (FIU) Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social work. He is currently the principle investigator of the Parkinson’s Disease Research Laboratory. His goal is to generate operational disease adjusting therapies for the brain disorder by studying the pathogenic mechanisms created by environmental influences and genetic mutations in Parkinson’s disease. 

WHY

I’ve taken a particular interest in this disease because of the close connection I have dealt with as my grandmother had Parkinson’s disease. My grandmother was a strong, beautiful woman who always put people’s needs over her own. She spent most of her life helping raise my brothers, sisters, and me; and I witnessed how this disease evidently changed her. Seeing that there’s no cure for this disease I’ve always been passionate to learn more about it. Doing research is also something that I would need to get done for medical school. So it seemed fitting to be able to work on something I was interested in like Parkinson’s disease.

This is Elsa Cuello, my grandmother, she suffered from Parkinson’s disease and is a huge inspiration to me and is the reason why I have an interest in learning about Parkinson’s Disease. [All Photos CC BY 4.0]

HOW

In the beginning of Fall of 2019, I had just recently transferred to FIU and was looking to get involved on campus by finding a research opportunity to take part in. I came across Dr. Tieu in my search and came across an article on the FIUs News website, talking about how Dr. Tieu had been awarded a 6.6 million-dollar grant from the NIEHS Revolutionizing Innovative, Visionary Environmental Health Research (RIVER) program. This grant offers investigators the flexibility and stability to manage their research with continuous funding for eight years. After I got in contact with Dr. Tieu, he gave me the opportunity to volunteer in the lab, which I have appreciated greatly. Through this experience I have met several brilliant individuals that have motivated and pushed me to learn beyond anything I could have imagined.  

WHERE & WHAT

I am currently volunteering in the lab twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. I am shadowing and so far, have been doing gels and genotyping on my own. I am still observing and learning how to do other techniques like immunostaining, western blotting, and cell culture. I have been doing all of this under the supervision of Rebecca Z Fan, while shadowing David Villanueva. 

WHEN

SUMMARY

It is safe to say that when I entered the lab for the first time, I was a little intimidated as I was the only undergraduate student in the lab. But those feelings quickly diminished as I had never met more genuine, authentic, and like-minded individuals to work alongside. They immediately made me feel included in the lab environment, which was very refreshing. I am currently working and shadowing under the supervision of Rebecca Z Fan, with training from David Villanueva. These individuals have inspired my passion for the sciences and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals to be in the lab. I am very thankful to have met them.

I have been able to shadow them while they conduct their experiments. They have had the most patience and understanding in showing me how to do different techniques like cell culture, genotyping, western blotting, and immunostaining. They not only modeled how these techniques are done but they explained how they correlate to the research.  I am very thankful to have been given this opportunity to work alongside amazing scientists like Dr. Tieu, Rebecca, David, Hary, Andres, Said, and Afzaal. I hope to continue to work in the lab and am excited for the years to come. 

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