GMS PhD Spotlight: Táchira Pichardo

Táchira Pichardo is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine (MTM). Her research in the lab of Assistant Professor of Medicine Sarah Mazzilli, PhD, studies the progression of premalignancy in lung squamous cell carcinoma. Táchira defended her dissertation in March 2024 and will graduate in May 2024. Read more about Táchira below!


What did you complete your dissertation research on and how did you settle on that topic?

My dissertation research focused on using a mouse model of carcinogen exposure to understand the immune contribution to the progression of premalignancy in lung squamous cell carcinoma. I have always been interested in the intersection between immunology and cancer research. In joining a new lab and being my PI’s first PhD student, I was fortunate enough to have my pick of projects and chose the one that not only aligned best with my interests, but also would allow me to gain a wide variety of research skills.

Why did you choose to do a PhD?

I have always been interested in science, but it wasn’t until I took an immunology class in high school that I was introduced to the field and what a career in research could look like. I had a fantastic support system in both my family and high school teachers that encouraged me to pursue graduate school and a career in the sciences.

What is one of your best memories from the time in your PhD?

One of the things I enjoyed most about my time in the lab is that no two days were the same! While as a bench scientist I often run a wide range of diverse experiments on any given day, I also spend a lot of time reading through the literature, drafting animal protocols/amendments, planning upcoming studies, working on manuscripts and grant submissions, and meeting with collaborators. Having the opportunity to do so many different things in the lab definitely keeps it interesting!

What are your next steps and your plans for your future?

My immediate next steps in the coming months are to work on completing two manuscripts from my time in the lab, including my first author manuscript from my dissertation work. I will also be looking for job opportunities within the pharmaceutical industry in the Boston area in the immuno-oncology space, focusing on translational research.

Do you have any advice for future PhD students or anything else you would like to share?

My biggest piece of advice for future PhD students would be to trust yourself! I gained an immense amount of confidence in my expertise and scientific abilities throughout my PhD due in large part to excellent mentorship by my PI, Dr. Sarah Mazzilli. Learning to trust in my own skills and knowledge as a scientist allowed me to push against the boundaries of what was known about my dissertation topic and drive my research forward to new and interesting directions.

What do you like to do for fun in Boston?

Boston has a surprisingly underrated food scene, so I love to explore the different cuisines that Boston has to offer. Because the city is so walkable, when the weather is warm I also love to walk down to the Charles River Esplanade and also across the bridge to Cambridge.