Science in Action continues to inspire


Clayborne Go/The Skyline View

Gabriela Monsalve (center) stands with two of her audience members after her lecture.

The Science in Action lecture for this week featured Gabriela Monsalve, Ph.D. Monsalve is a post-doctorate scholar at University of San Francisco. She researches biochemistry, the branch of science that deals with the chemical activities that occur within all living creatures.

“One of the cool things about being a scientist, particularly being a Latino too, is that there’s not a lot of us around so there is a confidence boost that comes with it,” Monsalve said.

Monsalve was born in Venezuela. When she was young, her father was given a scholarship from work to learn english in Florida for nine months. After that was finished, her family moved back to Venezuela. Soon her father received the opportunity to earn a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. at Washington State University.

She spent the rest of her childhood in Pullman, Washington while her father studied to get his Ph.D. Inspired by her father, it was at the age of five that she decided that she also wanted to get a Ph.D. At the age of 18, she was accepted into the University of Minnesota.

“When I graduated high school, I couldn’t speak in front of a crowd,” Monsalve said. “That was absolutely terrifying. The nice thing about having to practice it over and over again in grad school is, whether you like or not, you get better at doing it than when you didn’t practice at all.”

When she started college, Monsalve was unsure about what her major would be. She tried everything that was offered so she could be sure she really enjoyed biology.

Because of financial problems, Monsalve worked three jobs throughout her college career: one waitress job, one as a tutor, and one as a lab assistant. In her time working at a lab, she learned how important it is to be self-motivated to get work done. Soon after, she discovered she had a fondness for the field of biochemistry.

She received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota in 2005. From then to 2007, she was a staff research scientist at the University of California, San Diego. From 2007 to 2013, Monsalve worked on her graduate studies in biological chemistry at University of California, Los Angeles.

“I think one of things I like more about my life now is that I’m able to think really, not only critically, but really in a more open mind than I did in high school,” Monsalve said. “One of the biggest things I learned in graduate school is the more you learn about something, the more you realize you don’t know anything about it.”

Currently, Monsalve works at the University of San Francisco’s department of cellular molecular pharmacology.

“We need a lot of people train in science, a lot of people trained in problem solving,” Monsalve said. “Because there are going to be a lot of important problems in the future where we need leaders and citizens with this type of training to address. And we need people of all different types of backgrounds…The types of things you grow up with, influence the types of questions you ask…we need you.”