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PhD student Valeria Sanabria wins Zelda Haidak Scholarship in Cell Biology

PhD student Valeria Sanabria, MD

PhD student Valeria Sanabria, MD, has earned the Zelda Haidak Scholarship in Cell Biology from the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMass Chan Medical School. The late Gerald Haidak, MD, who was professor of surgery and cell biology and associate dean for special projects at UMass Chan, established the scholarship before his death to honor his wife, Zelda Haidak, and to enhance training for women launching research careers in cell biology.

“I’m really honored to have won this scholarship. The fact that it exists to support female researchers in science is important,” said Dr. Sanabria. “I believe we need to have more female faculty and more women in decision-making roles. I’d like to help make room for more women to be part of research and decision making.”

Sanabria grew up in Argentina and studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires, deciding to pursue a PhD at UMass Chan instead of progressing to a residency program after medical school. She chose the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences because of its umbrella pathway program, which allows scientists to rotate through three different labs their first year of the PhD program. Sanabria initially conducted research in the lab of Hyun Youk, PhD, associate professor of systems biology, and has been transitioning to doing research in the lab of Athma A. Pai, PhD, assistant professor of RNA therapeutics. 

“My main focus is understanding at the transcriptional level how genes are expressed and how that helps cells survive in different environments,” she said.

Sanabria said she loves to watch things grow, which is why she tends to “1,000 different house plants.” When she’s not in the lab, she can be found roller skating. She hopes to utilize the scholarship funds to attend conferences, gain networking experience and pursue additional courses to gain deeper knowledge.