The Jackson Laboratory has a long history of educating and training emerging scientists. Genomic Education expanded our scope in 2017 to include recent college graduates in our new Postbaccalaureate Fellows Program that prepares students for the rigors of MD/PhD Programs.
Because these programs are recruiting candidates who are ambitious enough to tackle the seven years of graduate education needed to earn both a MD and PhD, our Postbaccs have an exceptional passion for translational biomedical research. In particular, The Jackson Laboratory’s supports the aspirations of students who identify with groups currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences to contribute to the expanding diversity of physician-scientists needed to creatively approach problems of health and disease.
The program provides a two-year semi-structured mentored research experience that embeds the Postbacc Fellow into a JAX faculty lab so that they can meaningfully contribute to the lab’s research. Fellows are guided by an Individualized Development Plan and undertake an independent research project with close ties to human health and disease. Alongside training at the bench, Postbaccs strengthen their communication, collaboration, and professional skills through biweekly meetings with Genomic Education, a Postbacc journal club, and biannual Community Read. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in DEI workshops, interest groups, Trainee Talks and the annual JAX Scientific Symposium.
Training in the Korstanje lab, Bufi graduated from the University of Connecticut with degrees in Cellular and Molecular Biology & Globalization, Art, and Activism. Bufi was part of the UConn Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant providing care to COVID-19 patients before joining JAX. Bufi is pursuing a MD/PhD because she is interested in examining abstract scientific concepts with the goal of improving patient outcomes. Her favorite part of science is the creativity she is encouraged to pursue in the laboratory. In April of 2022, Bufi published a review article with her mentor titled “The impact of genetic background on mouse models of kidney disease” in Kidney International (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2022.03.020). In her free time, Bufi is an avid reader.
Patricia Colom Diaz
From Ponce, Puerto Rico, Colom Diaz is working in the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Trowbridge, examining the process of clonal hematopoiesis and its implications in leukemia. Colom graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in Biology. She served as an instructor at several STEM-based summer camps and previously has participated in undergraduate research at UPR. Colom sees her future as a physician scientist facilitating the ability to both provide compassionate care for patients and to help translate biomedical studies into health care practice. Her favorite thing about science is that you never stop learning. When not in the laboratory, Colom enjoys reading books and hiking with friends.
Jacob Flores is working in the laboratory of Dr. Christine Beck studying transposons in the human genome. He earned his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Houston Baptist University. Flores is enjoying his time in the Beck lab and has found the experience to be both enriching and challenging. He appreciates the longevity in his projects which gave him the opportunity to “confront the challenges that arise in research head on.” Flores has contributed to two publications that are under review with high impact journals. Through JAX’s Postbacc Fellow Training Program, Flores strives to be a stronger, more confident candidate for MD/PhD programs. When not in the lab, he likes to explore new restaurants.
Kimberly Heath Borrero
Kimberly Heath Borrero graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Biological Sciences and undergraduate research experience that led to coauthorship on two publications. She is now conducting research with Dr. Beth Dumont. Heath Borrero notes that “JAX is a unique opportunity to pursue research in a state-of-the-art facility, with scientists in diverse fields of research, an incredible networking space, and a structured immersion in research, providing solid foundations for a career as a physician scientist.” Heath recently presented the poster “Tracking Real-time Changes in House Mouse Centromere Satellite Architecture during Inbreeding” at the JAX 6th Annual Scientific Symposium.
After graduating from the University of Florida with a degree in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience and spending time in clinical settings, Leon now trains in the Ren lab. Leon is passionate about a career as an MD/PhD because he is fascinated by uncovering the causes and mechanisms of disease which helps further the development of medicine. He appreciates that the discoveries are never ending within scientific research. Leon presented a poster at the 2022 Annual Meeting at American Association for Cancer Research titled “Mouse Strain Variations in Drug-Induced Lung Stromal Responses.” He also participated in the pilot of JAX Cancer Center’s Genomic Tumor Boards for Trainees Program. Leon also participates in the Yale School of Medicine’s Program to Advance Training in Health Sciences (PATHS).
Johanna Riera earned her B.S. in Biology from New Jersey City University. She is working with Dr. Julia Oh studying the human microbiome and infectious diseases. Riera has presented this research to the JAX community at two Scientific Symposia. Her research will be continued with a NIH Diversity Supplement grant under Dr. Julia Oh studying "Molecular Mechanisms of Staphylococcus Epidermidis Strain Diversity.” She feels that JAX has helped her “growth as a future physician scientist in a myriad of ways: ranging from intensive experimental training in microbiology, molecular biology to computational, statistics training.” Riera looks forward to continuing her projects in the Oh lab and preparing for her future as a physician scientist. She looks forward to presenting her recent work at the Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomics Conference this fall.
After two years in the Weinstock lab studying the interaction of the gut microbiome with the human immune system, Postbacc Jin Komerska will begin the University of Wisconsin MSTP this summer. A Grinnell College alum, Komerska wanted additional time at the bench to expand her research skills and strengthen her candidacy for graduate school. Ashley Tucker in the Bult lab studied metastatic lung cancer joined JAX with a BS Biomedical Science from Rochester Institute of Technology. Tucker chose JAX for her Postbacc experience because “JAX is a unique place, having so many great scientists with an abundance of resources and collaborations all in one place”. She will join the University of Connecticut Health Center’s MD/PhD program this fall and plans to spend her first rotation in the Palucka lab.
New Postbaccs will join JAX later this summer. Take a moment to say hello and encourage them as they undertake this step in their ambitious plans for graduate school and careers as physician-scientists.