Aug 11, 2023 | Paola Pinto Quiana Vidal is on her way to earn her Ph.D. in Biotechnology Science and Engineering (BSE) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), an interdisciplinary graduate program between the Departments of Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Chemical Engineering. Influenced by her daughter's life-altering brain injury, her career is dedicated to leveraging interdisciplinary expertise, deeply rooted in her determination to make medical breakthroughs that positively impact lives. Born and raised in Florida, she attended the University of Florida and delved into microbiology and pre-med studies. Despite her involvement in a zoology and neuroscience lab, she eventually transitioned into a career as a librarian for 6 years. However, life's course took a sharp turn when her daughter experienced a life-altering brain injury shortly after birth. "The incident compelled me to seek solutions and hope for my daughter's recovery." Amidst this challenge, hope emerged from an animal study, a treatment avenue that gave her hope. Vidal delved into scientific exploration, conducting extensive research on the treatment and its potential outcomes. This newfound engagement reignited her passion for science, particularly in chemistry. She grasped the pivotal role that chemistry plays in unraveling intricate biological mechanisms and its capacity to catalyze advancements in medical treatments. This revitalized interest transformed a subject that had once been daunting into a source of fascination and motivation. Overcoming obstacles became a daily norm for her. As a non-traditional student and a mother, she faced numerous challenges, including moving to different states due to her husband's military service. However, she refused to let these obstacles interfere with her objectives. During her time in Colorado Springs, she embraced the opportunity to take more science courses at the University of Colorado, her desire for knowledge led her to explore different research projects and gain valuable experience in various labs. After moving to Huntsville, Vidal seized the chance to apply to the Ph.D. program in BSE at UAH, driven by her desire to contribute to the field that had the potential to impact her daughter's life and the lives of countless others. Her dedication to her studies and her passion for chemistry was noticed by her mentor, Dr. Love-Rutledge, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry, who guided her with support and encouragement. “Quiana's passion and skill set in microscopy was something that she developed on her own. She participated in a virtual PAIR-UP workshop and initiated the conversations that led to the internship. I was so proud of her, and her mentor Dr. Teng-Leong Chew is as well,” shares Dr. Love-Rutledge. Vidal is currently working on a rodent study examining prediabetes symptoms and their potential link to fatty liver disease. "I really wanted to work on diseases that affect humans, and that was another reason I was drawn to Dr. Love-Rutledge's lab because she was studying prediabetes and diabetes-type models," Vidal says. Guided by her future aspirations, Vidal shares, "I'm contemplating a career path in disease treatment discovery or microscopy." After completing her studies, her goal is to foster impactful connections within the Huntsville community, solidifying her dedication to these fields. During the past summer, she embarked on an exceptional journey, interning at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. There, she engaged closely with the staff in the Light Microscopy Facility. “I was the only student doing an internship with Light Microscopy Facility and the only African-American in the group that summer,” Vidal explains. Vidal offers valuable advice to current Chemistry students, encouraging them not to hesitate to ask questions. Reflecting on her own journey, she remembers feeling hesitant to raise her hand during her undergraduate years in large classrooms. However, upon returning to school, she embraced openness to seek answers and support. Whether through study groups or utilizing resources at the Student Success Center, seeking help is crucial for success in their academic endeavors. Vidal's remarkable journey exemplifies the spirit of a mother and the profound effect determination can have on shaping one's path. Her desire to improve her daughter's life brought her back to the field of science she is now so passionate about. As she approaches the completion of her Ph.D., her story inspires all those facing obstacles in pursuing their dreams, reminding us that with love, resilience, and a passion for knowledge, we can overcome any challenges that life throws our way.