“Beyond the Bench” – A Journey Through Science Mysteries

From detective shows to decoding genetic data - how a Jefferson alum found her way to the world of computational research.

“As a kid, I was always asking my parents a million questions about how things worked,” says Tess Cherlin, PhD. “I felt like ‘Harriet the Spy’ digging around for clues and answers.” This curiosity for real-world mystery drew her to the sciences. Last year, she finished her doctoral studies in Computational Cancer Biology in Dr. Isidore Rigoutsos’ laboratory, where she studied a little-understood class of genetic material called ribosomal RNA fragments, or rRF’s. She described new properties of rRF’s, which will help us understand their function in our bodies and how they may influence susceptibility to different diseases.

At Jefferson, Dr. Cherlin led a number of initiatives to bridge the divide between scientists and the public. As president of the Graduate Student Association, she spearheaded several science communication initiatives – the first-ever 3 Minute Thesis Competition at Jefferson where junior researchers prepare TED-style talks about their work for a lay audience and the “Animate Your Science” workshop, to name a few.

Dr. Cherlin is continuing her computational work with a focus on women’s health as a postdoctoral researcher. She also teaches coding workshops in Philadelphia with R-Ladies. “Every scientist should know how to code,” she says, “It’s a tool that can open all sorts of scientific mysteries, and everyone should have access to that.” Click through the illustrations, by JKX Comics, below and learn more about her journey!

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