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 Ph.D. Program in 2018. I am currently a 5th-year Ph.D. candidate in a Biochemistry lab. Concurrently, I am pursuing a graduate certificate in Science Communication.
RESEARCH INTERESTS: I am interested in the targeting mechanism of a chromatin remodeling enzyme, in yeast.
CURRENT RESEARCH: I have developed a Biochemical assay to decipher the substrate preferences of a chromatin remodeling enzyme. The chromatin remodeler is responsible for targeting a histone variant (i.e. protein component of DNA packaging) to a specific genomic location. The histone variant, named H2A.Z, plays an important role in gene expression. Dysregulation of H2A.Z targeting is a robust biomarker for some late-stage cancers. Using my assay, we can better understand histone targeting mechanisms.
FUTURE GOALS: My future is undecided! I am open to all opportunities that come my way, though I will likely pursue an industry career. My goal is to continue to perform bench research and continue my science communication work.
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?
My descent into STEM was slow. It started with an endless slot of “why” questions as a child and a need to watch every science documentary available. I excelled in science and took advanced classes with pleasure. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my go-to answer became “Mad Scientist”. Funnily, I don’t remember anyone ever questioning me on it. When it came to college, I knew that it had to be science but was completely unsure of what I wanted to do with the degree. I scrolled through the majors and found the most mad-sciency thing I could: Biochemistry. I added a Math minor later on out of pure love for the classes. It all fell into place one step at a time. I spent a year as a Microbiologist at a pharmaceutical company before joining a Biochemistry and Cell Biology Master’s program. And a year into that, I was offered a Ph.D. position in the Molecular and Cellular Biology program. I figured I’d just keep letting science take me where it wants.
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: Going upstate for a long hike with my Husband and Dog.
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!
Favorite thing to do on Long Island: As a native Long Islander, I have plenty of go-to places. But you can’t beat Ocean Beach in the summer, the Eastern-end farms in the Fall, Light shows in during the holiday season, and ANY arboretum in the Spring (highly suggest the Bayard Cutting and Planting Fields Arboretums).