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#STEMStories: Jillian, Cancer Immunology Computational Research Fellow, USA

1. Introduce yourself, who are you what do you do?

Jillian Wise, PhD. I am a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School-The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. I am working on researching the genomics of cancer as it relates to resistance to therapies and immunology. Also, I am a Founding Member of TIME’S UP Healthcare.

2. How did you arrive at this career (or point in your life/work)? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do?

My original goal was to be a medical oncologist. However, during my university years, I realized that much of curative research happens in laboratories. After doing a summer internship in a cancer research laboratory, I was hooked! I thrived on intellectual freedom, exploration and the impact on patients. During my first postdoc, I realized that massive data accumulation started to be necessary in research. I had no computer analytics skills. So, I decided to do a second postdoctoral research fellow in computational analytics/bioinformatics. I would never have foreseen myself coding. However, I am in awe and floored by the exploration which is achievable in genomics given the resources gained from the human genome atlas and computer science.

3. What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark mornings?

Curiosity. When that fails, I remember the many times someone has thanked me and described how cancer has affected their lives.

4. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story?

I find exercise is my best stress management. It requires time not thinking about said stressor and the endorphin release is good for my mood.

I am also a fan of traveling; it offers multiple perspectives; including how big the world is and that many people are out there trying to succeed at similar goals.

5. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this?

I think I have many role models for different aspects of my life: my career, motherhood, life-style, etc. There is not one person who has all the same challenges as myself and even the best of role models has faced challenges beyond my own. In science, I have many including: Sara Seager, Felipe Samaniego, Ralph Steinman and Resa Lewiss.

6. What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back in time?

I do wish, when I was younger, I had learned to take my love of science beyond the enjoyment of the basic school program. There are so many opportunities to make science a hobby or join programs to study it outside of school hours, which I was unaware of. I think I would have had a better perspective of the multiple ways science is integrated and utilized outside the classroom. I believe this would have led to more successful academic applications.

7. Top 3 tips for girls starting out in STEM?

  1. Don’t be put off by failure, only of how you deal with it.
  2. Try to integrate your favorite subjects into your life outside of school.
  3. Go look up all the cool careers involving coding, science, biology, and all of your interests. Try and shadow people...there is so much out there beyond the stereotypical choices!

8. How do you measure your success?

My own happiness

9. Where can we find out more about your work?

I have a few articles on pubmed, there is also some publically available lectures.

10. Are you social? Will you share your Twitter handle, or LinkedIn profile, or Facebook so that young women can connect with you?

Twitter: Jillianmcwise