In honor of Graduate Student Appreciation Week this month, Jaspreet Rishi and Arin Oestreich along with the diversity committee would like to highlight the wonderful trainee members of SSR. This week we interviewed Ruth Opoku, a graduate student in Dr. Laura Schulz’s laboratory at the University of Missouri.
1. What is your current position and research project?
I am a first-year graduate student in the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Missouri Columbia. I work with Dr. Laura Schulz where my research is focused on investigating how the muscle protein myostatin influences the maternal uterine environment, placental physiology, and fetal development. My goal is to understand how the myostatin signaling pathway influences fetal growth and the long-term musculoskeletal health of the offspring. We hope that this work will lead to a prenatal treatment for the congenital bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta.
2. What attracted you to the field of reproduction?
I was born in Ghana, West Africa, a developing country where maternal-fetal health is especially neglected. I was first attracted to reproductive research when I met my graduate mentor, Dr. Laura Schulz. I was excited to combine my interest in molecular and cellular signaling with a research topic I felt passionate about. I believe that studying how maternal health can affect pregnancy and the health of a baby can play a role in preventing maternal-fetal mortality and improving lifelong health. My long-term goal is to help develop tools and strategies to improve women’s health in my country.
3. Is there a mentor who has particularly influenced your career?
I have multiple mentors who have positively influenced my career. My undergraduate professor Marc Larosiliere cultivated my scientific curiosity, introduced me to research, and encouraged me to apply for the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program. My undergraduate research mentor Dr. Alam Nur-E-Kamal took me into his laboratory and taught me how to ask questions and design targeted experiments to answer them. Finally, my current mentor Dr. Schulz introduced me to the field of reproduction and women’s health and is teaching me to critically think and master the techniques I need to grow as a scientist while cultivating my professional development. Together, they have taught me to love my work and help people through my research.
4. What advice do you have to other students considering a Ph.D. in reproduction?
I would encourage students interested in the field of reproduction to choose a project they are excited about rather than choosing a laboratory to learn a specific technique. You can always learn new ways to answer the questions you are passionate about. It is also important to be patient and kind to yourself. Sometimes the work can be overwhelming, but if you trust yourself and know that you are there for a reason, you will not give up. It will all be worth it in the end. The work you are doing in reproduction is important and your research contributions have the potential to greatly impact our community in the future.