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WATCH: PhD candidate Javier Solivan-Rivera says collaboration is key at GSBS

By Bryan Goodchild and Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

September 11, 2019

As an inquisitive child, Javier Solivan-Rivera said he knew he wanted to study human biology. Though he initially focused on becoming a physician, he decided he would prefer to conduct research that could directly lead to improved human health.

Solivan-Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, is a third-year PhD candidate in the lab of Silvia Corvera, MD, the Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research and professor of molecular medicine, where he studies human adipose tissue biology and how it relates to metabolic disease.

“I wanted to be the person who, hands-on, is discovering new things and potentially answering questions that no one in the world knows and that could have a potential impact on human health,” he said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 11, during a Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences ceremony, Solivan-Rivera and his classmates will be recognized for successfully completing the qualification exam and beginning their formal PhD training.

Solivan-Rivera’s research is focused on how human adipose tissue stem cells can be made into mature adipocytes with the goal of eventually creating tissue from stem cells. This could enable doctors to remove “bad fat,” modify it and return it to the body as “good fat.” This is not only important for basic science research, but there is a potentially therapeutic approach to mediate metabolic disfunction, he said.

Acknowledging that completing a PhD program can be stressful, Solivan-Rivera said success requires hard work and a supportive, collaborative environment.

“I chose UMass Medical School because of its highly collaborative environment and its world-renowned research teams,” he said. “In science, especially in the PhD, there are a lot of ups and downs and it requires a collaborative team of people that are going to support you. It is where you are going to create connections that are not only going to stay in your PhD, but hopefully they are going to become potential collaborators and colleagues in the field in the future.”