Maggie Gardner.Hometown: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Undergraduate Institution: Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

Attending a smaller undergraduate institution gave me the opportunity to work in research as well as work directly with the biology faculty. Because of this exposure to biomedical research early on, I developed a love for the field which is what ultimately drove me to apply for Ph.D. programs in molecular and developmental biology. Cincinnati Children’s was an attractive candidate for grad school to me because of the heavy emphasis on translational research. I was interested in programs that were associated with hospitals because of the opportunities to be exposed to medical research, and the Molecular and Developmental Biology program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital was a perfect fit.

Currently, I am researching the molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of Pleuropulmonary Blastoma (PPB), which is a rare pediatric lung cancer. Mutations in the gene coding for Dicer, the enzyme responsible for processing mature microRNAs, are found in a significant number of PPB patients. My lab has developed mouse models of PPB by ablating Dicer from the developing lung epithelium, which allows us to understand the progression of the disease as well as the signaling pathways in the lung that go awry after Dicer loss.

During my first year in the program I learned that balance is important for a successful graduate student. Being able to juggle a full course load on top of rotating in different labs can be a challenge, but it is a valuable experience before focusing fully on research. My best advice for prospective and incoming students is to find a program and a lab that you can not only prosper in, but also enjoy. In addition to balancing course work and lab work, find a hobby! It is very easy to become consumed by your research, but don’t let that prevent you from having some fun.

As a place to live, Cincinnati is a nice tradeoff between a big city and a more rural area. There is the opportunity to live in quiet areas while still being able to experience the city by going downtown. Cincinnati is a very up and coming city and there are always new restaurants and bars opening up. I am never at a loss for something to do during the week as well as on the weekends. So, in addition to getting a Ph.D. in one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation, use this time to get to know the city of Cincinnati!