Editor’s Note: This feature story about Valerie Doze ’21 is the first of six to appear this summer about the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University graduates who have received awards from the Fulbright US Student Program.
Valerie Doze ’21 has always gone somewhere.
During her time as a College of Saint Benedict student, she studied in Austria, traveled to Poland to attend UN Framework Convention on Climate Changetook to Boston to attend Harvard Model UN and earned an internship through the Jackson Fellows program with one International Trade Association of Arlington, Virginia.
Had COVID-19 not been a significant factor, there would have been more trips. She was a trained research assistant at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore) in the summers of 2020 and 2021 – although she met them, almost from where she grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota (where she also spent the summer after her first year at CSB, where she worked as an intern in an epigenetics / neuroscience lab at the University of North Dakota).
Since graduating from Saint Ben’s in December 2021, she has been a full-time research technologist at Johns Hopkins apart from a visit to her parents during the holidays. But she is making up for the time the pandemic forced her to stay home.
Doze is one of six CSB and SJU students to receive Fulbright Student Awards for 2022-23. While the others are to be English teaching assistants, Doze – the fifth of six students in Saint Ben’s history to become Truman Scholar – received CSB’s first Open Study / Research Award in three years. She travels to Göttingen, Germany in September, where she will work with Prof. Dr. Patrick Cramer, a world-renowned chemist who is the director of the Department of Molecular Biology at Max Planck Department of Interdisciplinary Sciences. He is an expert in methods for how COVID replicates and antiviral drugs fight the disease.
“It’s very exciting,” said Doze, who was a graduate student in biochemistry and German. “It was my best choice.”
Fulbright’s first CSB research since 2019
She got to know Jessie Thwaites ’19, CSB and SJU’s latest Fulbright researcher, who received an Austrian Fulbright-Marshall Plan Award in 2019-20. Thwaites, who worked at the Austrian Institute of Space Science, is now a trained research assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in particle astrophysics.
If it’s hard to conceptualize, then tighten your chin strap if you want to learn about what Doze wants to do. Her research project is entitled “Pandemic Generation: Biochemical Characterization of New COVID-19 Polymerase Inhibitors.”
“The plan is to look at antiviral drugs where the mechanisms of action are within the antiviral drugs – like Remdesivir or Molnupiravir,” Doze said. “We want to find out how these actually work biochemically and what we can learn from them. If we look at how COVID replicates, we can find out how we target it.”
Her distinguished dissertation as a CSB senior was entitled “Single-cell RNA sequencing studies to study aging-dependent changes and regional heterogeneity in glial cells.”
“All my research in college had been neuroscience-based, and I knew I wanted to explore infectious diseases or broader biochemical research before I decided on a graduate school program,” Doze said.
The future of public health policy?
Doze, an avid runner and hiker who also plays the piano, wants to work at the crossroads between politics, climate change and public health. Maybe when we face our next pandemic, it will be a former Bennie who provides guidance to elected officials or through TV interviews.
“She is very unique,” said Dr. Jen Schaefer, chair of the biology department at CSB and SJU, an advisor to Doze during her time on campus. “She usually undersells what she’s done.”
Schaefer points to Doze’s virtual internship at a Johns Hopkins laboratory researching brain cells. Because COVID limited practical research, her supervisors used it as an opportunity to get into bioinformatics, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the collection, classification, storage and analysis of biochemical and biological information using computers, especially in the field of computers. molecular genetics and genomics. “
“The (Bioconductor) software you use for it is (a programming language) called R,” Schaefer said. “It’s a statistical package that is not easy to use. It requires a lot of training, and most people who would learn it on their own would have a computer science background. (Johns Hopkins) Laboratory suggested that Valerie try a bioinformatics approach using R as a new way for the laboratory to look at their ongoing issues related to glial cell identity and development. For a bachelor to learn and pilot test, this is spectacular. “
CSB and SJU roots remain strong
As Doze’s career continues to rise, she also raises the profile of CSB and SJU, which she chose over Notre Dame and Santa Clara (California) University.
“The liberal arts education was really important to me,” she said. “I want to be a well-rounded student. The professors and mentors I had at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s were second to none. They were a big part of discovering what I was interested in, as well as in helping me apply. “and receive awards like this. And the strength of the German language department has given many Fulbrights over the years. The mentoring work from there was enormous in terms of them reviewing my application and practice interviews.”
Doze leaves for Germany in mid-September and expects to be there for at least 10 months. Before then, she hopes to have made a decision on where she will continue her career in after school. With the resume she is about to make, she will most likely have her choice of institutions.
Wherever she goes, she takes her alma mater with her on the trip.
“The alum network is so strong,” Doze said. “I met Bennies out here in Baltimore. It’s been a nice surprise. There’s someone who’s finishing his PhD and a retired chemistry professor (Dr. Henry Jakubowski) connected us. I met someone else at church. “I was wearing a Saint John’s shirt and she asked if I was going to Saint Ben’s. And there is a large group in DC. There is at least one I already know in Germany that I have been associated with.”
CSB and SJU students who are interested in applying for a Fulbright Prize for the academic year 2023-24 must contact Phil KronebuschProfessor of Political Science and Coordinator of Competition Scholarships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gunnerson Gutschdirector of the office of bachelor research at CSB and SJU.