Lisa Russell, PhD ’11

Biochemistry Faculty Lee Ann Sinha and Student Lisa Russell.

Lisa Russell's mentor is always available to answer her questions.

Lisa Russell found the perfect lab for her PhD research.

The only problem? It was in UB’s biochemistry department, and Russell didn’t see herself as a biochemist.

“I was nervous about joining this department because the only biochemistry courses I took as an undergrad were the required ones,” says Russell, who was an animal science major at Cornell University.

She quickly realized that she’d made the right decision—one that would provide the skills fundamental to a variety of careers in biomedical research.

“I’m glad I joined biochemistry because I like having a well-rounded background in scientific techniques,” she says. “Everything in science is coming down to molecular mechanisms, and a lot of that is basic biochemical techniques you need to know.”

Russell studies B cell mechanisms that regulate the onset and pathogenesis of lupus in mice. When she needs help in her research, she doesn’t hesitate to ask her mentor, Lee Ann Garrett Sinha, PhD.

“I know how I learn best,” Russell says. “I like to run things by my P.I., so I wouldn’t want to work with someone who was never around or too busy to answer my questions. Lee Ann is very patient. She takes the time to explain things.”

Sinha, assistant professor of biochemistry, stresses how important it is for aspiring independent researchers like Russell to appreciate the role of trial and error in the lab.

“It’s a balancing act,” she says. “You have to let students make a few mistakes, because that’s how we learn, but you don’t want them to be struggling all the time.”