With the generous support of a local biotechnology companyRegeneronfour times a year, the River Journal publishes an on-site report by River Towns High School science students paired with a Regeneron scientist to experience what it is like to do STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education in the real world.
The Irvington High School science research program has provided me with many unique opportunities. My experience of being able to interview a top scientist, Chiatogu Onyewu, MD, PhD was for me one of the most important events in this program. Given my love of science, I was curious to find out how such a successful doctor also got a scientific error. She replied that it started in her seventh grade science class. Her interest in learning about the cell, combined with good success in teaching, was the beginning of her love of science. Dr. Onyewu added that science fairs held in high school have further stimulated her interest in science and the scientific method. She also loved going to the office, where she watched the pediatrician help her with her ailments and talk to her mother, who was a nurse, and that fascinated her.
As I prepare to begin the college process, I was very interested to hear about Dr. Onyewu’s experience. She believes her transition to college was probably the most influential period in her professional development. In particular, selected as a Meyerhoff Fellow at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), which focused on increasing the number of African-American PhDs in the country, it laid the foundation for her educational path and future career aspirations.
Dr. Onyewu is now a medical scientist leading the management of a research program at Regeneron. I was interested to hear her views on time management given that she balances her career while raising a family. She commented that she personally has a few tricks to improve her time management skills, which includes always having deadlines to be on the right track. She believes it is important to focus on mental and physical health, and sometimes after a hard or tiring day she likes to dance away from stress because physical movement helps her feel much better.
Dr. Onyewu’s first mentored research experience focused on microbiology, but that experience later led to many other projects outside the field. As a medical student, she gained a new perspective on the potential of scientific research that can change patients. When Dr. Onyewu began her graduate research in a laboratory that focused on targeting opportunistic yeast antifungal drugs, she was excited to recognize the potential of providing tangible options in the therapeutic space.
In my own research, I became fascinated with genetics and the true inner workings of the body. The research that interests me most is trying to use body genetics as a tool to eradicate disease instead of causing disease. This is of particular interest to me on the current work of Dr. Onyewu. Although she did not study CRISPR genetics in graduate school, her current work focuses on the various internal pathways where CRISPR technology can be used to edit genes. In his role at Regeneron, he collaborates with other biotechnology companies that have innovative genetic and cellular technologies with the aim of developing state-of-the-art therapies.
After learning so much about Dr. Onyew’s ideas and work, I was very interested to hear about her future research projects. She responded that she would focus primarily on genetic and cellular therapies because they are revolutionary with the potential to truly transform patients ’health.
TITLE: Chiatogu Onyewu, MD, Ph.D.