Molecular and Developmental Biology Graduate Program

  • Heather McCauley

    Heather McCauley.Undergraduate institution: University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

    My favorite class in college, at the University of Southern California, was Developmental Biology – my final biology elective in my senior year. I knew I enjoyed research; I worked in a lab for nearly three years studying insulin resistance and fatty acid metabolism in skeletal muscle. I even thought I might go to graduate school, but was suffering from a lack of focus. That Developmental Biology class changed all that. For the first time in college, I felt invested in the lectures; I wanted to know what was going to happen next to a developing embryo, and why. I learned that so many signaling pathways activated in development are often again activated in diseases like cancer. I felt like I had so much to learn, and a PhD program was the next logical step.

    Before I had even completed its application, I had a feeling about the MDB program at Cincinnati Children’s. It had focus as well as collaboration and boasted cutting-edge research settled snugly within a top children’s hospital. The first round of emails I received from the admissions director, faculty and staff were so warm and engaging that I immediately sensed that the research community at Cincinnati Children's was truly a family. This was directly at odds with so many other “umbrella” type programs which lacked a central theme and seemed impersonal and intimidating.

    Midway through the interview day, I had decided that this was the program for me. Everyone, from the program directors down to first-year students, was welcoming and eager to answer any and all questions. What really impressed me (aside from the state-of-the-art laboratories) was the emphasis on translational research. The research conducted at Cincinnati Children's is done with the emphasis of changing the lives across the street at the hospital. I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be a part of.

    Now that I’ve completed one year in the MDB program, I can safely say that my initial impressions of the program were completely accurate. I have been exposed to groundbreaking science in a number of fields, attended seminars and had lunch with world-renowned scientists, and truly feel at home with the other students, the faculty and staff, and with my lab. I joined Dr. Geraldine Guasch’s lab, which studies the role of stem cells in tumor development – a perfect fit for my research interests. As a California girl, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m at home in Cincinnati, too.