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Salome Funes, PhD candidate, Translational Science Program

“The Translational Science Program allows me to focus on how to translate findings in the lab toward potential therapeutic targets that impact patient lives.” 

Salome Funes is passionate about empowering people who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields through science outreach. A PhD candidate in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ Translational Science Program and former vice president of the UMass Chan Medical School chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, she has found an ideal education at UMass Chan.

Funes grew up in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and was the first person in her family to attend college. She has a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas-ESPE in Sangolquí, Ecuador.

“Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to STEM careers. They weren’t common in my immediate environment,” Funes said. “I got interested in science when I was a kid by watching a TV show based on the X-Men comics. Later in undergrad, I was moved by the lack of treatment for many diseases and got interested in biomedicine.”

Funes first learned about UMass Chan through an alumnus who suggested the school was a good fit for her. She said that UMass Chan’s world-class science and friendly environment sealed the deal for her.

“I chose the Translational Science Program because it allows me to focus my education on how to translate findings in the lab toward potential therapeutic targets that may impact patient lives,” Funes said.

Funes studies amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, in the lab of Daryl A. Bosco, PhD, professor of neurology. Funes looks at how microglia, the first cells to respond when something goes wrong in the brain, could become dysfunctional and contribute to the motor neuron death which ultimately causes ALS. Patients die between two and five years after diagnosis.

After she receives her degree, Funes aims to develop new therapeutic targets to extend the life span of patients and improve their quality of life.