Hometown: Newburgh, NY
High school: Newburgh Free Academy
Jennifer Mataraza '94 was going to be a doctor. After two years on a pre-med track, she participated in a biology research project and found she loved working in the laboratory. As a senior, she completed a prestigious Scholar of the College project—rigorous, independent research directed by a faculty advisor—in which she developed a noninvasive diagnostic test that used saliva (not blood) to detect certain proteins in breast cancer patients. Mataraza was hooked; she decided to pursue a career in research.
After graduation, she spent two years as a hospital laboratory researcher before returning to Boston College to begin graduate work under the direction of Prof. Thomas Chiles. For her doctoral thesis, she conducted a study to better understand the cellular signaling pathways involved in controlling cell death in immature mouse B lymphocytes. (Read her thesis)
Now an associate principal scientist at Schering-Plough Research Institute in Cambridge, she says "the hands-on experiences in the laboratory are what put me on the career path to becoming a scientist."
Mataraza's division at Schering-Plough develops biological pharmaceuticals to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer. She leads a team of scientists in analyzing monoclonal antibodies, which can be used to target cells responsible for cancer, autoimmune diseases, and inflammation.
"As a biology major, you will be challenged both in the classroom and in the laboratory," Mataraza tells prospective BC students. "The greater Boston area is one of the top places in the country for studying science and medicine: there are world-class medical facilities and research institutes, as well as countless pharmaceutical and biotech companies."
Come to BC with an open mind, she advises: "You may end up following a career path that is much different than the one you imagined on your first day of classes."