PhD Candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences
Yara Rodriguez is a PhD candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) in Life Sciences. Her research seeks to understand the genetic drivers of therapy-resistant prostate cancer. Yara founded INITIA, an organization that promotes STEM education for young women in Bolivia. She also volunteers with Clubes de Ciencia, an organization that delivers free science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshops to children in developing countries. This year, Yara was awarded the highly competitive American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. One of the reasons why it is so difficult to treat this disease is drug resistance. Often patients who develop resistance have fewer therapeutic options available. My research aims to understand how cancer cells become resistant to treatment. If we can understand this process, we can identify new vulnerabilities of these cells, which can later be translated into new therapeutic options.
What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
One of the things I only realized while doing my PhD is how hard we work to push forward the boundaries of science. This work is challenging because you are continually dealing with the uncertainty that comes with moving along an unknown path. However, making a small discovery or conducting a successful experiment can be very rewarding and motivating.
Northwestern is one of the best places in the United States to do research. The school offers students many resources to fulfill their personal and professional aspirations. As an international student, it was also important for me to find a university with a diverse environment where every student is valued regardless of their nationality. This is exactly how I feel at Northwestern.
What inspires you?
As a caregiver for a cancer patient myself, I have joined many online communities seeking help and support. Being part of these communities made me realize how much all patients struggle through their cancer journeys. Doing research is my way of helping them. I hope that someday my research will bring hope to cancer patients and their families.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
When you are given an opportunity, make the best out of it. Work hard and learn as much as possible. Look for a mentor. There are many kind people out there willing to support a driven student.
Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
Over the last few years, I have been involved in different organizations that promote science education and mentoring in my home country, Bolivia. This year, I founded INITIA, a network of Bolivian women in science that provides mentorship and training opportunities for young women interested in a STEM career.
Published: November 17, 2020
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