The Excitement of Discovery

The Excitement of Discovery

Rollins Alumni Make Important Contributions to the Sciences

By Kristen Manieri
Photos by Judy Watson Tracy

It’s impossible to count how many a-ha moments have occurred inside the Archibald Granville Bush Science Center over the more than 40 years since it was built. Throughout the decades, countless students and professors have wandered its halls, made discoveries in its labs, and cemented a love for science that has fueled groundbreaking research and spawned rewarding careers. There’s a spirit of curiosity and relentless investigation coursing through its halls, and while the massive renovation planned for spring 2012 will change Bush’s aesthetics, that spirit will remain the same. What follows is a glimpse into the lives of eight Rollins grads who took that spirit with them beyond Rollins and into exciting endeavors and professional pursuits.

Cherie Ramirez. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Cherie Ramirez ’06

“Science doesn’t always cooperate with you; you have to love it regardless.”

Majors: Biochemistry/molecular biology and classical studies

When Cherie Ramirez arrived at Rollins in 2002, she was just 16. Some might have worried she would get lost in the shuffle, but little did they know she would find her way quickly. Surrounded by some of her favorite professors—Professor of Biology Eileen Gregory, Professor Emeritus of Physics Don Griffin, Professor of Biology Stephen Klemann, Archibald Granville Bush Professor of Science Thomas Moore, and Associate Professor of Biology Paul Stephenson—Ramirez’s passion for science blew open like a Fourth of July firework. “I’ve always been fascinated by the concept that you can cure genetic diseases by modifying the genetic code of living cells,” Ramirez said. Current occupation... Ph.D. student at Harvard University. Her science field… Gene therapy. “One of the important things I’ve been working on as a Ph.D. student is finding new ways to reduce potential side effects of the gene-modifying technology we engineer—zinc finger nucleases.” Side work… Global health and health care reform. “What I loved about Rollins is that they empower you to be a global citizen,” said Ramirez, who spends as much time thinking about scientific advancements as she does about the people they will impact. “Skills we exercised in critical thinking and the vision of social responsibility that was instilled in us have allowed me to think not just about the experiments, but to look at what it all means for the bigger picture.” Wake-up call… Finding out that science is, at the end of the day, a job. “I always thought of science as this really pure thing, but there are some things that are unexpectedly disappointing, like the interference of politics in scientific progress.” In her spare time… She loves brewing beer with her boyfriend, even crazy concoctions like cherry chocolate ale. “It’s kind of like the home version of science.” Best advice… “Hard work does not equal success but it’s definitely a requirement. You need to be comfortable with the fact that science won’t always cooperate with you; you have to love it regardless.”

Junia Jean-Gilles Beaubrun. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Junia Jean-Gilles Beaubrun ’98

“Every answer brings more questions—discovery never ends.”

Major: Biology

Junia Jean-Gilles Beaubrun would be the first to tell you that her life is full, but it’s a life without compromise. The Haitian-born Rollins and Howard University grad has always approached life with a have-it-all attitude, and the result has been a career and family life she could not be more proud of. Sure, her plate is jam-packed, but she gets her energy from a deep sense of purpose. “It’s a very fulfilling experience to know that everything I do matters.” Current occupation… Microbiologist staff fellow in the Office of Applied Research and Safety Assessment at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Favorite science moment… Studying the E. coli O157:H7 illness outbreak in 2006 and contributing some of the data necessary to correlate the outbreak isolates to spinach on grocery store shelves. She got started on her path when… She took Professor of Biology Eileen Gregory’s class in molecular biology and realized, “Most of the answers we’ll ever need to combat diseases in our bodies are already written in our DNA, if we could only understand it better and comprehend how it works.” A day in Junia’s life… Besides researching strains of salmonella to identify a quick detection method, Junia also raises three boys with her husband, Jonas. “It is a joy to get up and go to work knowing anything I do today might contribute to the safety of my kids tomorrow.” Science philosophy… You will never get it right the first time; you have to keep trying and trying and trying again. Best advice… Never forget that a negative result is still a result because it tells you that you need to keep looking somewhere else. Why science… “Science for me has always been about exploring and discovering. Every morning when I get up, I feel I serve a greater purpose.”

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