Pt. II: Student Profile

Student Profile – Cristina Paz
(Kimple lab)

Where are you from? Why Madison and the Cancer Biology program?

I am from Chicago, IL. I chose the Cancer Biology program at UW-Madison because, as a 15- year cancer survivor, I have always wanted to do cancer research and make contributions to the field. The Cancer Bio program will give me the skills and training I need to be a successful researcher in the field of cancer.  Madison offers lots of things to do but still retains a small-town vibe. Madison’s proximity to both Milwaukee and Chicago is convenient whenever I am missing home or a larger city.  The numerous state parks and outdoor recreation venues around the city make Madison a perfect blend of traits you want in a place to live.

What is your favorite place/activity when you need to de-stress?

When I need to de-stress, I enjoy going on drives with my husband to the driftless region of Wisconsin just west of Madison. I enjoy the scenery, and we often stop at a fun park or a cool town each time we go.

You were 6 months into the program when the lockdown was put in place. What was your PI and lab’s response?

My PI was supportive and understanding of the situation.  He met frequently with me to discuss everything for my first committee meeting, so I was well prepared.  Safety was the priority. Any ongoing laboratory projects were wrapped up, and everything else was suspended until we could return. My PI ensured I got the attention and training I needed, despite the difficulties brought forth by the pandemic.

What is your new norm? How have you been coping with classes and trying to do in-person research?

My new norm is to do bench work at the lab and to do all computer work at home. To cope with the transition of working from home, I created a dedicated work space, and I developed a routine/schedule for my day, allocating blocks of time for specific tasks so I would not get distracted. I also set up a network with my friends in my classes to remind each other of our meetings and when assignments are due, to study together via video chat, and to keep each other motivated during this difficult time.

Any advice for incoming students, especially under these new circumstances?

My advice for entering students would be to take one day at a time and try your best not to get overwhelmed with the circumstances. It has been hard on everyone and people are more understanding than you would think. Speak out when you need help and do not be afraid to work together with others. My best piece of advice would be to remember that your PI is your biggest ally—they are interested in your development as a student and a scientist so you should be open with them when you need help.

(THIS HAS BEEN EDITED FOR LENGTH AND IS PART OF A MULTI-PROFILE SERIES)