STUDENTfacturED

Mary Nelson

Junior high is an awkward time of life for everyone including me; however it was when I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  I was fascinated with the concept that every cell in the human body has the coded instructions for making the whole body.  I just wanted to learn as much as I could about DNA.  I asked a question in my high school biology class about gene transcription to which my instructor did not have an answer.  I spent the next 16 years searching for the answer to my question.

I studied biochemistry at Seattle University.  I joined the lab of a faculty member in the Biology department. I worked on cloning a gene from the social bacterium Myxococcus xanthus.  The gene played a role in coordinating the bacteria to make structures in response to stress for the purpose of generating spores. Having hands-on lab work gave me the opportunity to experience, question and understand the concepts taught in my classes.  The lab became a wonderful learning environment with many opportunities to ask questions and have the means to do experiments to answer them.  I received my Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 2000.

My education continued at the University of Utah in the department of Oncological Sciences at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.  It was in graduate school where I finally had the opportunity to search for answers to the question from my high school biology class.  I studied transcription mechanisms in relation to how cancerous tissue mis-regulates transcription to cause increases in cell proliferation.  I sometimes relished in my experiments not providing  the desired results because it meant that I had more opportunities to learn new techniques.  My work extended into NMR structural studies and biophysical characterization of post-translational protein modifications and protein-protein interactions.

About a year after completing my Ph.D. in Oncological Science in 2007, I was offered the position of Assistant Director of InnovaBio.  It was the perfect opportunity for me to provide high school and college students with the experience of a wonderful hands-on learning environment.  InnovaBio is a Contract Research Organization (CRO) that solicits low priority projects from biotech companies.  The projects are carried out in the InnovaBio lab by student interns at Salt Lake Community College under the direction of experienced scientists. In 2013 I was promoted to Director of InnovaBio.  I am very much enjoying the business and management side of InnovaBio.  I am excited about the contributions I can make to STUDENTfacturED.  My experience with InnovaBio has prepared me to successfully manage the continued development of student-led and student-run manufacturing operations.