Making Waves in Science: Jennifer Van Eyk
In honor of National Women's History Month in March, we are celebrating Cedars-Sinai's talented female leaders with a Q&A series, "Making Waves in Science." This week's interview is with Jennifer Van Eyk, PhD, professor of Medicine, who directs the Advanced Clinical Biosystems Research Institute, the Precision Biomarker Laboratory and basic research at the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center. She also co-directs Cedars-Sinai Precision Health.
How are you making an impact on science?
As director of the Advanced Clinical Biosystems Research Institute, I lead a team whose mission is to move our discoveries through the science pipeline and into the hands of clinicians. The Precision Biomarker Laboratory enables clinicians to use protein biomarkers we've identified to diagnose patients and predict their health outcomes. Another impact involves home-monitoring techniques we’ve developed. As part of ongoing studies, we're remotely monitoring heart disease patients: They mail us blood samples that we analyze to determine if their medication is working and if they may be at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. We're also remotely monitoring patients with irritable bowel syndrome to determine if they're at risk of having a flare-up. Training the next generation of scientists and clinicians to accomplish even more than we have is another contribution.
What leadership advice would you give to your younger self?
The first piece of advice would be this: If you've identified a problem, ignore everyone who says it can't be solved. The second piece of advice would be to surround yourself with smart people and nurture them to be their very best because that's how you advance science. The last piece of advice: If you've made a scientific discovery, don't keep it to yourself. Whatever it is, you should always share it with the world. In fact, that's our obligation to society for the privilege of being allowed to do this job.
Who is your favorite science heroine from history and why?
There are many women who have paved the way for me and other female scientists. Two who come immediately to mind are Catherine Clarke Fenselau, PhD, and Catherine Costello, PhD. Fenselau, who has done pioneering work in bioanalytical chemistry, was among the first mass spectrometrists named to the faculty of an American medical school—my alma mater, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Costello founded the Boston University School of Medicine Center for Biomedical Mass Spectrometry, which has become an internationally recognized research center. Both these women are not only icons in the fields of mass spectrometry and proteomics but also serve as proof that women can and should hold leadership roles in science. When I think about them and other accomplished female scientists, there are several characteristics they have in common that I find inspiring: perseverance, sheer talent, strong work ethic, innovative thinking and an unwavering belief in their mission.