Xochitl Vasquez graduated from the UW PharBE program in June 2021. She recently accepted a position as senior research associate with Maze Therapeutics based in San Francisco, Calif. The company translates genetic insights into therapeutic innovations to create precision medicines that fight disease. Xochitl works on the Stem Cell Biology team on cardiovascular diseases, focused primarily on preclinical development.

While in the PharBE program she started at StemoniX, now part of Vyant Bio, as research and development intern; was promoted to research associate and then scientific alliance manager a little over two years after starting at StemoniX.

What do enjoy about your current work?

In my new role, I have gone back to the bench and am working on cardiovascular diseases, focused primarily on preclinical development. What drew me to Maze Therapeutics was their method of tackling diseases. They are combining human genetics, functional genomics and data science to advance the understanding of how to more effectively treat patients with severe, rare and common diseases. This gives me the opportunity to work with a very multi-disciplinary team and that makes science so much more exciting. In our meetings I get to learn about drug discovery from many different perspectives, and it makes planning experiments and executing tasks a lot easier because I have the support of a team well-versed in multiple areas of research. Having the master’s program combined with my job experiences solidified my career path decision. I discovered that I like working hands-on in the lab – being part of the experiments to look at diseases, understanding why cells behave the way they do and ultimately having a better firsthand understanding of how a drug works.

What was your favorite PharBE class and why?

My favorite class was Pharmaceutics 1, which focused on the research and development phase of a therapeutic. I was most interested in it because of how it relates to my current work. Working as a senior research associate gives me the opportunity to dive deep into answering the difficult questions surrounding disease. Research and development is a difficult area to work in because about 90% of the time things don’t work, but when they do there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can make a difference in treating a disease.

Any advice for prospective PharBE students?

Before getting into the PharBE program, I wasn’t sure how it could help my career. My advice to prospective students is to not think too much about it. Any advanced degree can propel your career in different ways. Applying for the PharBE master’s program was a bit of an impulse decision, but the degree completely transformed my career trajectory. Sometimes it’s good to take that first step and see where it takes you.

What do you like to do in your free time?

When COVID first impacted us, I started a small jewelry business. I create resin jewelry where I hand press flowers and preserve them in resin. It’s funny how my scientific background translated into my hobby as well.

Read more about the PharBE program and PharBE alumni.