The Washington State University (WSU) College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) has a reputation for developing outstanding scientists and leaders in research. The college continually strives to provide opportunities for students to engage with preeminent faculty and globally-recognized researchers, and gain national recognition in the process.
Yadira Xitlalli Pérez-Páramo is a graduate student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Program at WSU in Spokane. She recently received recognition from several international research organizations for excellence in collaborative research and scholarship.
Pérez-Páramo is from Morelia, Michocán, Mexico. She studied chemistry at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in her hometown, and completed her master’s degree in molecular biology and genetic engineering at the Universidad Autonóma de Nuevo Leon in Monterrey, Mexico. She is a Fulbright Scholar, and came to WSU because of the pharmacogenomics research happening in Spokane.
“When I came to WSU-Spokane for the interview I fell in love with the city, the surroundings and the affordability to live here on a graduate student stipend,” Pérez-Páramo said.
She works in the research lab of Philip Lazarus, and together they are studying how genetics effect the body’s reactions to and removal of nicotine, the addictive agent in tobacco products, and tobacco carcinogens, and if these genetic factors can be used as markers of tobacco addiction or cancer risk. If her research is successful, Pérez-Páramo could be able to determine how likely a smoker will develop nicotine addiction or cancer based on his or her own DNA.
“I love the translational part of my research,” Pérez-Páramo said. “Especially, the ability to generate knowledge that will impact public health in the future.”
This past February she received a travel award from the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco (SRNT) to attend the SRNT Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. This SRNT travel award is a significant recognition. A total of 12 graduate students, and only six from the U.S., receive such a travel award each year.
“Being able to participate in an interdisciplinary meeting of scientists involving different fields working towards the same goal—nicotine addiction and tobacco related diseases—makes my research at WSU feel more like I’m a part of the team effort,” Pérez-Páramo said.
At the beginning of March she received a travel award sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and NASA Astrobiology to attend Science Talk in Portland, Oregon. This is an annual conference with the mission to increase the promotion of science and scientific activities through better communication of the scientific process and its achievements to a broader audience.
“I learned how to be a better science communicator,” Pérez-Páramo said.
Also this spring, Pérez-Páramo was selected for the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) National Mentoring program. Around 15 students get selected nationally for this program every year that pairs young scientists with research mentors for career training through a coaching model. The program focuses on topics important to professional growth such as work/life balance, interview skills, communication, and networking. The mentor program also provided Pérez-Páramo with a travel award to attend the ASPET Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego in April. She will be working with Janet Clark, the Director of Fellowship Training with the National Institute of Mental Health, as her mentor over the next year.
“I am looking forward to these professional development opportunities and being able to obtain direct advice from an experienced person that has worked in academia, industry and government institutes,” Pérez-Páramo said.
This is not the first time WSU has been represented in the ASPET National Mentoring program. Pharmaceutical sciences graduate student Ana Vergara, also from Lazarus’ laboratory, was selected for the same program last year.
Also while at Experimental Biology 2018, Pérez-Páramo won two poster presentation awards.
“I think the mentoring program will help me to define my career path in the future,” Pérez-Páramo said. After completing her Ph.D., she is considering pursuing a postdoctoral research position, or exploring pharmaceutical or biotech industry in the area of drug metabolism, she said.
In addition to her studies in pharmaceutical sciences, Pérez-Páramo is active in her local community and the scientific community. She has served as a judge for the Alaska Imagine Tomorrow high school competition, hosted by Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture at WSU. She also serves as a mentor for the NY Academy of Sciences program, “1000 Girls, 1000 Dreams,” that helps to empower high school girls that are interested in STEM from undeserved areas in Mexico.