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Muryam Gourdet ’14

Muryam Gourdet ’14 wasn’t always sure she would be able to complete her college degree, but after she graduated with a BA in Biological Science from HNU, she went on to get her master’s in Cell and Molecular Biology at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and is now a PhD student in the UCSF Tetrad Program. Tetrad focuses on four research areas and promotes collaborations among laboratories to solve outstanding problems in modern science. Gourdet is currently working in a biochemistry lab, where she studies the regulation of gene expression.

What is it about Biology that inspires you?

Biology is the study of life and it’s cool to learn about how so many things need to happen in order for us to exist. It makes me appreciate how beautiful life is. It is so easy for something to go wrong. Through my studies, I grew an appreciation for life.

Right now, I want to understand the mechanisms behind chromatin remodelers, and how these proteins regulate nucleosome state. The particular class of remodelers I will be studying is not very well understood. Understanding how different biological processes are regulated gives us the opportunity to appreciate the importance of these processes, and could potentially lead to drug discovery, and many other things. These are the basic mechanisms for things essential for all life.

How did HNU shape your path to this PhD program?

Julia Smith, Professor of Biological Science, was my advisor, and she is the reason why I’m in this program. She is why I finished my undergraduate degree. She forced me to apply for a master’s degree and she encouraged me to apply for a PhD. We are still in touch, and she regularly checks up on me.

What was your experience as a student at HNU?

I completely supported myself financially. Some of my peers did the same. I worked at IKEA full-time the entire time I was in school. If it weren’t for support from HNU faculty, I would still be working there. My final year at HNU, I had a child and HNU provided a huge support system. I was also a tutor for Principles of Biology at HNU. It was challenging, but I got so much satisfaction experiencing the moment I saw that concepts clicked for the students. I wanted to change how students viewed science.

What’s next for you?

I am really into promoting science with underrepresented minorities, and low socio-economic status students. I’m working to bring more science and scientific experiences to HNU students now. Faculty from UCSF will give talks at HNU this spring. I’m organizing a tour of UCSF for current HNU biology students. I want to make sure students at HNU have opportunities to access labs in the Bay Area with the top technology. As for me, I think I would like to be a teacher, but I am open to where this takes me.

What do you wish students knew about studying science?

It’s really important for students to know that there are careers in science outside of a medical career. Here in the Bay Area, we are in a technology and science mecca. There are people that are willing to help guide you, you just have to ask for support.