October 2, 2023 — In a warm and collegial gathering Sept. 21, 50 second-year doctoral students from the University of Florida College of Medicine Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences celebrated matching with faculty mentors and research laboratories that will serve as a supportive academic home throughout their studies.
The seventh annual Mentor-Match Celebration, hosted by the Office of Graduate Education at the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building, brought together many members of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences community for the joyous occasion.
Concentration directors and faculty from the program’s eight branches introduced each of the 50 student mentees in attendance to an audience of fellow scientists and incoming first-year graduate students, who are rotating through different laboratories in the college as part of their own search for the perfect mentor match. The mentees then gave an overview of their research foci, academic backgrounds and what attracted them to their mentors and labs.
Students said they knew the UF College of Medicine was the right place to be thanks to a nurturing environment and combination of leading-edge research and technology with knowledgeable, accessible and kind faculty mentors to learn from and collaborate with during their academic pursuits.
Ignacio Gallardo, a second-year pharmacology and therapeutics doctoral student, said he is incredibly excited to be mentored by assistant professor Mark S. Moehle, Ph.D., who helped recruit him to UF.
“His mentoring style played a significant role in my decision to join the lab, as he demonstrates a remarkable ability to balance guidance and independence,” Gallardo said. “This entire time, he’s shown immense interest in me and my well-being. And beyond that, he has encouraged me and everyone in the lab to think critically, make decisions and take the lead on our projects, which has already helped me grow as a scientist.”
Gallardo’s nontraditional path to graduate education first started when he came to UF as an undergraduate economics student. After a long journey of self-discovery, he said, he returned to school and pursued a master’s degree in biochemistry at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where he researched potential human protein targets of the main protease in COVID-19. Now, as a member of Moehle’s lab, his goal is to further the understanding of Lewy body dementia to lead to more effective therapeutic strategies. One day, he hopes to run a lab researching the underlying causes and mechanisms of multiple sclerosis.
“I am very interested in doing research on neurodegenerative diseases, which was the focus of many labs here at UF,” Gallardo said. “The more I read the profiles of potential PIs, the more excited I became to conduct research in their labs. Additionally, I was very interested in the collaborative atmosphere of the biomedical sciences program, making the research environment both productive and enjoyable. UF has also made big news in the amount of funding received for biomedical research and the incorporation of AI, so I really wanted to be part of that.”
Moehle, who participated in Mentor-Match Celebration for the first time this year, said Gallardo’s clear passion for understanding neurodegenerative diseases has made him an exciting addition to the lab and a wonderful student mentee.
“The Mentor-Match Ceremony is a great way to formalize a student joining your lab,” Moehle said. “You get to see what led the student to not only come to UF, but also why they chose your lab and what they hope to do in the future. This happens in front of all the first-year biomedical sciences students, showing them the commitment necessary to join a lab both on the mentor’s part and the student’s part.”