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Women in Science: Dr. Osovitz of University of Tampa

Change is the only constant in life. That change has led Dr. Michelle Osovitz to find her career in Molecular Developmental Biology. The Californian native has travelled throughout the US and internationally for conferences and research. While attending University of Santa Barbara as a graduate student, Dr. Osovitz spent five weeks in Hawaii free diving for a research project, and was able to visit Japan for a conference. The first research project that she was a part was during her undergraduate years. After an unforeseen snowboarding accident she had to take a break from waiting tables, and took that opportunity to gain experience at a small aquaculture company, Super Shrimp Inc. While working at Super Shrimp Inc, she began with taking care of the shrimp then was able to look for genetic markers in their DNA to find which were resistant to the disease White Spot Syndrome. By tracking the genetic markers they could also track the speed of disease.

While at school not only was Dr. Osovitz able to experience amazing opportunities that helped her to realize what she was passionate about. Just as important as learning what she enjoyed, she was also able to have experiences that weren’t as exciting or great, allowing her to continue on a path that felt right.

 Schooling was one path that she wanted to continue with, from starting at Saddleback Community College earning her AA Degree, going on to University of San Diego to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, then earning her PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at University of Santa Barbara. The final step was attending Stanford University where she earned her Post Doctoral Degree. Not only has Dr. Osovitz been a student, but she has been an educator for ten years. Recently becoming a faculty member here at University of Tampa, for two years; after previously working at St. Petersburg College Clearwater for eight years.

Another pathway was researching different aspects of change. With primarily working with marine organisms, with using the information found and applying it to the medical field. When asked about the two research projects she would do again, included the research she had done while at Stanford. The research was focused on Tunicate regeneration and their stem cell success during internal competition. Testing to see why certain stem cells would out compete the other stem cells, and what made that decision. The second project she mentioned, is her current work here at University of Tampa.

Now Dr. Osovitz is continuing her studies from California and testing sea urchins and observing the decisions made at the point of fertilization and beginning stages of development. This research includes aspects from chemistry along with microbiology, after leaving it in 2006 she returned back to it, to continue researching cell cycle control. 

During the interview and my personal experience as being one of her students, it’s clear to see how passionate she is about her research and being a resource for her students. Some of the amazing advice she has shared about not needing to make plans since they are a recipe for heartbreak, that it’s okay to make personal choices. Making personal choices is hard, and to have the reassurance that personal lives are just as important as your career. A great example of her prioritizing her personal life is when she moved to Florida for love, “that you can do science anywhere, but can’t find love anywhere”. 

Her two pieces of advice for everyone and Stem students are:

“You should be doing things that when you wake up you want to get going. When you wake for the morning you think this is the thing I have to do today you are actually excited and passionate about it. If you’re not, which you won’t always be,it’s going to be harder to continue on the track you chose. So whatever you’re doing, if you’re not happy about it the change.”

“A lot of opportunities and everyone that can provide those opportunities like professors or people in a community they were all you at one point so all of them started as a student that needed someone to mentor them. So I try to always tell students you want to look for those people and reach out that recognize that they can help you the way someone helped them. So don’t be discouraged in saying well this person works in this prestigious place or they’re too busy, all of us needed someone like you guys need somebody.

Learning, failing, and growing to become a better person, scientist, and writer. Marine biology major with a passion in the arts and wanting to see and create change.
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