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NIGMS Logo NIGMS > Minority Programs Update > Winter 2003 > Profile: Nancy Urizar

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This section profiles former MORE participants who have excelled in their fields. We hope that the profiles will give students an idea of the types of careers available with science degrees and the paths others have taken to achieve those careers.

A Bright Future for an Aspiring Scientist
photo of Nancy Urizar

Nancy Urizar

“I became interested in science after taking a high school biology class,” said Nancy Urizar, a graduate student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

“The instructor’s enthusiasm for science led me to value both scientists and scientific discovery,” she added.

Urizar recalls seeing the inside of a lab for the first time on a high school field trip to Baylor. This experience helped inspire her to pursue a scientific career and later prompted her to choose Baylor for graduate school.

Encouraged by her parents to stay in the Houston area, Urizar received her undergraduate education at the University of Houston on a full scholarship. She got hands-on laboratory experience working part-time as a laboratory assistant at Baylor.

Urizar earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, but she knew that she wanted to further her education. After taking a year off from school, she applied to several graduate schools, including Baylor. Although she was accepted into other schools, Urizar did not get into Baylor, which was her top choice. Determined to go there, she continued working as a lab assistant at Baylor and then reapplied for admission. She was accepted the following year.

“If you reach a point where something is not working after more than three or four tries, go and get help from an expert in that technique.”

In addition to her strong will and determination, Urizar attributes much of her success to the MBRS program, which provided her with financial assistance and offered her the chance to go to meetings such as the Gordon Research Conference on Hormone Action, which she attended during her first year of graduate school.

“The Gordon Conference gave me the opportunity to meet many well-known scientists,” Urizar said. “Seeing their excellent research motivated me to work even harder,” she added.

Urizar also attributes her success to having a good mentor, Dr. David D. Moore. She currently works in his lab in the department of molecular and cellular biology, studying the role that FXR, a type of protein called a nuclear hormone receptor, plays in maintaining the balance of lipids in the body, especially cholesterol levels. Urizar was the first author on a paper in Science identifying a natural product that lowers cholesterol levels in an animal model (see the full citation in the Selected Publications section). This work received international attention.

photo of Nancy Urizar, Wendong Huang, and Jun Zhang in the lab

Nancy Urizar (right) performs research with postdoctoral fellow Wendong Huang (left) and graduate student Jun Zhang in her lab at Baylor College of Medicine.

Urizar credits Moore with helping her to become an independent researcher.

“When I go to Dr. Moore for help, he doesn’t simply tell me what to do. Instead he and I discuss ways to solve the problem,” she explained.

Urizar advises students entering graduate school to seek assistance from advisors, instructors, postdocs, and other students.

“If you reach a point where something is not working after more than three or four tries, go and get help from an expert in that technique,” Urizar said.

Although uncertain of the direction she wants to take in the future, Urizar knows she wants a career in science.

“I just have to find the career that’s perfect for me,” she said.

If you know an outstanding former MARC, MBRS, or Bridges participant who has excelled professionally and you would like to nominate that person as a future Update profile subject, please let us know. Your suggestions are always welcome.

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