“I feel very fortunate to have a job where I have the freedom to come up with scientific questions that I think are important,” says Emilyn Uy Alejandro, PhD.

Recently designated a McKnight Land Grant Professor, Alejandro feels privileged to be included within this group of distinguished faculty members.

“I feel very honored to have received this designation. I think that the purpose of the McKnight is to really give you a boost in your academic research pursuits, and I am very appreciative of that investment, and I hope to deliver solid returns,” she says.

Alejandro’s research is focused primarily on the prevention of diabetes, which is one of the most common chronic diseases.

“We hope to increase our scientific knowledge surrounding this disease, but at the end of the day, we hope that our research effort has the potential to change the world,” she says.

Starting Out

While Alejandro has been incredibly successful in her research, her career path wasn’t always crystal clear.

“I was the first one in my family to pursue a career in science,” says Alejandro. “I was also the first to receive higher education training in the United States.”

During her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, she really fell in love with research. While she thought she might want to go to medical school for a period of time, ultimately she decided that a career in medical research was her calling.

“I really like the autonomy that research allows you, to pursue that question that you are seeking an answer for,” says Alejandro.

Developing a Love for Academic Medicine

Now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, one of Alejandro’s main drivers is seeing the success of her trainees in the lab.

“It’s such an enjoyment to see them go through the pipeline and transition into becoming scientists themselves and to get them fully hooked on science,” she says. “For me, it’s extremely fulfilling when you are able to help the next generation of junior scientists move forward in their career.”

In addition to the mentoring piece, Alejandro also enjoys working closely and collaborating with other colleagues.

“It’s an incredibly stimulating environment; there’s an entire community built around seeking answers. Even if we’re asking different questions, we can still learn from each other and move closer to our common goal of finding cures to human diseases,” she says.