NAME: Cynthia Converso
EDUCATION: I received my BS in Biochemistry, with a Mathematics minor from SUNY Geneseo in 2016. I went on to pursue an MS in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University in 2017 and promptly transitioned into the Molecular and Cellular Biology PhD Program in 2018. I am currently a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in a Biochemistry lab.
RESEARCH INTERESTS: I am interested in our cells’ ability to tightly package 2 meters of DNA into a 10 micrometer nucleus, while simultaneously creating open regions where genes are read and acted on.
CURRENT RESEARCH: I use yeast to research how differences in DNA packaging affects the accessibility of genes. DNA is packaged by wrapping around histones (think thread around a spool) to create a nucleosome. The histones can be modified based on the need of a gene to be read, aka. transcribed. Genes that are being actively transcribed have a special histone that allows the DNA to be more easily accessed. I am interested in how the cell knows when and where it is supposed to deposit the special histone. Incorrectly depositing this special histone, either in time or location, is a marker for late-stage cancers.
FUTURE GOALS: My future is undecided! I am open to all opportunities that come my way, whether it leads me to academia or industry. Either way, I would like to continue to do bench research, teach and mentor.
Why did you want to be a part of GWiSE?
I was looking for a community of like minded people. When I first went to a GWiSE event in 2019, I was very excited to have found friends that were fun and exciting. I immediately wanted to get involved and play a larger role in this organization that uplifts, supports and encourages women to reach their full potential in STEM.
What/who got you interested in your field?
Since graduating high school, I have been mainly interested in studying topics in biochemistry, which led me to look for a lab in SBU’s Biochemistry department. I joined the Luk Lab because of the friendly atmosphere, encouraging labmates, interesting research topics and, mainly, Dr. Ed Luk’s mentorship style.
When did you know you were interested in pursuing a degree in science/engineering?
I have had a long running joke that I was going to be a mad scientist. Although mad science was not exactly a concrete career path, I was highly motivated and encouraged by my high school teachers to choose a STEM major in college. Plus, my absolute idol was the cool lab technician in NCIS, Abby Scuito (she rocked!).
What do you think needs to happen for there to be more women in science/engineering?
Representation! Let’s show kids at a young age that they are welcome and represented in every field. Even after graduating from college, I did not know what I wanted to do with my STEM degree. Although I was interested in working in a lab, I think I did not see myself as a research scientist. I strongly believe that, if more young girls could see a diverse group of people working together in a STEM career, they would be able to see themselves following a similar path.
Favorite way to spend a free day: Hiking in the forest!
Most interesting place you have visited: Being able to go to Australia (Sydney and Melbourne, I can’t choose) was one of the coolest trips I have ever been on!
If you could only live in one area (city/beach/mountains/desert/plains) for the rest of your life, where would you live and why? My dream is to live on a self-sustaining plot of land on the side of a mountain. I am happiest among the trees!