By Pamela Hirschberg
At 12 years old, LaTasha (Tash) Fraser was exposed to laboratory life for the first time at a STEM-focused summer camp at NJIT. Tash’s experience at camp introduced her to science and made her fall in love with it. Tash’s love for science was very obvious when I asked her how she chose her lab at Rutgers. That’s because many students enter the multidisciplinary Ph.D. program with an area of study in mind, but Tash said that she would have been happy to do a thesis on any topic. Tash ended up in the lab of Dr. Sanjay Tyagi, where she studied stochastic gene expression and how it may help tumor cells evade cancer therapies. Her most recent first author paper was just published this past October!
Although Tash has always loved science, some other strong passions began to develop while she was doing her PhD. Tash attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) alongside Dr. Lutz for the first time in 2015 (she also attended 3 other years during her PhD), where she encouraged STEM undergraduate students to continue their studies in medical school or in a PhD program.
During the conference, it became clear to Tash that she did not just want to do research, but she also wanted to inspire others to become scientists, especially people of color from underserved communities. This desire was reflected in Tash’s favorite achievement from her time at Rutgers, which was founding the Minority Student Association (MSA). The MSA is an organization on campus that provides all types of support for minority and students of color, whether it be academic or emotional. This much-needed contribution to student life on our campus is still going strong.
Post-graduation Tash completed one post-doc at Rutgers, continuing her work in the Tyagi lab, and one post-doc at New York University (NYU). At NYU she focused on genome stability studies of telomere cohesion and the protein complexes involved in the cohesion process and chromatin segregation. Throughout this period, Tash always kept her goal in mind of inspiring others to become scientists. In July 2021, Tash was able to shift her role at NYU to Senior Program Coordinator of the Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP). Her position involves the continual recruitment of scholar candidates into the program through her attendance at career fairs, and through making lasting relationships with schools across New York City. Tash also directly supervises and mentors for the STEP scholars. When Tash attends recruitment events and visits schools she represents the Office of Diversity Affairs.
Although her 12 year-old self might feel disappointed that she is no longer performing experiments in the lab, Tash still loves sharing that passion for science with others. Tash works to pass on that enthusiasm when she meets prospective scientists. In that way, she evokes that younger version of herself every day.
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