When Margot (Gallowitsch) Puerta ’00 applied to Fairfield years ago, she answered an application question that asked her where she saw herself in ten years. “I wrote that I would be living in Colorado working as a science writer,” she said. Twelve years later she’s not too far off track. While not in Colorado, the biology major is living in Long Island and is the managing editor of the biomedical journal Molecular Medicine, part of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.
“It’s the ideal position for me,” said Puerta, who went on to Hofstra University for an M.S. in Biology and an MBA degree. Biology wasn’t her first choice of major though. She initially wanted to study English. Her position now reflects a strong balance of both interests. “You definitely can’t work as a managing editor of a science journal without the specific scientific background. The writing skills are essential, but without the science, you’re missing a core component,” she explained.
“Margot’s experience as a science writer/editor points to the many opportunities our science students have to pursue writing careers and other pathways,” said David Sapp, professor of English and coordinator of the professional writing program in the English Department.
Molecular Medicine is a translational journal with articles focusing on the causes of diseases (such as breast cancer and Alzheimer’s) and what can be done to diagnose, treat, or prevent them. While Puerta was not considering medical school too seriously while she a student, she did want to enter a field where she could help people. “All of the research that’s done at the Feinstein Institute is ultimately to help patients.”
Puerta has been with the journal for seven years, and has been associated with the Feinstein Institute since she was in graduate school. Back when she was about to graduate from Fairfield and unsure of her path, she spoke to her advisor, Dr. Donald Ross, who advised her to go to graduate school. She chose Hofstra and eventually interviewed for a research assistant lab position at the Feinstein Institute where she rose to the rank of lab manager. Later, she learned about the Molecular Medicine journal and has been working there ever since.
Despite her busy schedule at the institute, Puerta has remained in contact with Fairfield professors, and has even started a tradition of alumni working at the Institute. “The CEO of the Institute approached me and said that he needed someone for his lab,” she explained. “I asked him what kind of someone? And he said, ‘someone like you.’ So, I called Fairfield.” LaQueta Hudson ’07 was hired, and she now works in the lab and has helped place another Fairfield graduate, Meghan Dancho ’06.
In January, Puerta worked with Fairfield professors to bring science majors to visit the institute to see what it’s like to work at a large research institution. The hands-on experience and opportunity to meet people is invaluable, Puerta said. “I’ve worked in a lab long enough to know that once you graduate with a bachelor’s degree, you need additional training. You have to deal with the politics of a lab, new rules and regulations, andyou have to be a self-starter. Hands-on internships can really help.”
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