Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate Program

  • Alyssa Gallas

    Alyssa Gallas.Undergraduate Institution:  Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio

    Upon beginning my undergraduate career at Xavier University here in Cincinnati, I knew what I didn’t want to do with my biology major: be a doctor. Xavier is known for their high acceptance rate into medical schools, but it wasn’t the path for me. With the majority of my classmates pursuing this typical and seemingly expected route, I felt proud, albeit strange, to not be one of them; though I knew what I didn’t want, I wasn’t exactly sure what I did want. During my junior year, I obtained a job in Aaron Zorn’s lab here at Children’s. Despite all I had to learn, and not just new techniques, I felt welcomed and comfortable every step of the way. Among the countless solutions, frog embryos, and an endless mountain of research papers on lung development, I began to thoroughly enjoy what I was working on enough to want to pursue a PhD.

    Thus began the process of studying for and taking the GRE, applying to graduate programs, and getting invited to interviews. My first interview was at Children’s. Although I was already familiar with how amazing the facilities were, the faculty impressed me and how influential all their research seemed to be. There are numerous faculty members here working on various projects that span the whole spectrum of current research. There is definitely something for everyone. This is one of the reasons why Children’s is considered one of the best research facilities in the country. 

    What really made an impression on me was how comfortable yet hardworking the students were. They all loved working hard in the lab but could also have fun at the same time. Everyone here seemed happy and was still able to accomplish a tremendous amount of work. I was also impressed by how everyone wanted to be sure that you would get the most of your education. They want to help in any way so as to ensure your happiness and success. I value that they are as much invested in you as you are in obtaining your degree. For me, this is what set Children’s apart from the rest of the graduate programs.

    Another positive check on the pros and cons list was the city of Cincinnati. Having been here for four years prior to starting my doctorate, I had fallen in love with the city. I loved how it seemed like a small, intimate city with all of the perks of a big city. I can’t recall how many Cincinnati Reds baseball games I have been to, I love going to Broadway shows at the Aronoff, and I have enjoyed a few outdoor concerts at Riverbend Music Center. Cincinnati is bursting with great restaurants and cultural activities; it is also a great place for those who enjoy running, walking or biking. And if you can possibly find a weekend with nothing to do, there are other great cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Cleveland with a five hour or less drive time.

    Becoming a part of the Molecular and Developmental Biology Program at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am confident that I have all the tools necessary to contribute my research discoveries and leave my mark on the greater science community.


    Rankin SA, Gallas AL, Neto A, Gómez-Skarmeta JL, Zorn AM. Suppression of Bmp4 signaling by the zinc-finger repressors Osr1 and Osr2 is required for Wnt/β-catenin-mediated lung specification in Xenopus. Development. 139(16): 3010-20. 2012.