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HSCommunity: Faculty Spotlight / Dr. Ivan Martinez

HSCommunity: Faculty Spotlight / Dr. Ivan Martinez

Dr. Martinez is an Associate Professor in the WVU School of Medicine and Cancer Institute. He is passionate about increasing the diversity of students and faculty at WVU. He recently answered a few questions about why he chose WVU, insights he offers to students and collaborations that have helped him to become a successful scientist. 

Q: What is the importance of having students and faculty from diverse backgrounds on campus?
A: The diversity at the faculty and student level is essential for the future at WVU. The world is getting smaller and smaller and learning how to respectfully and efficiently interact with faculty and students from different backgrounds is very important for the leadership of our university in the state and around the country.

Another important benefit of having a diverse faculty and student population in a scientific setting is the advantage of looking at science from a different or “diverse” perspective. The background of each individual will have a huge influence on how they will answer a specific hypothesis and how they will approach solving it. The more diversity, the better chances WVU will have to succeed in its scientific achievements.

Q: What were some of the key factors in your decision-making process to select WVU?
A: When I came to WVU for my interview for a tenure-track professor position, I realized that the academic and technical resources were as good as any other university in the U.S. Also, the environment of collaboration and support between colleagues was very refreshing and important as a new professor.
 
Q: When talking with prospective students about WVU, how do you describe the culture?
A: I tell them WVU is the perfect size so everyone helps each other to become successful as a student and as a researcher. Big universities have so many people and academic pressure that you can get lost as an individual without too much help. Small universities lack infrastructure, so it is very hard to achieve cutting-edge research.
 
Q: As a graduate student mentor, what is one piece of advice that you always share?
A: If you are a person that is looking for immediate results, please do not do research! Being a scientist means being patient and sometimes stubborn. Experiments most of the time do not work the first time, second time... fifth time... but when they finally work, it is an amazing feeling to know that probably you are the first person in the world that is answering a specific question!
 
Q: Could you share a collaboration or partnership that has helped you become a successful scientist?
A: I have been very lucky to interact with and learn from so many amazing scientists during my career. My mentor during my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh (Dr. Saleem Khan) was very “hands-free,” so he gave me the freedom to explore and ask questions that I felt important to answer but also gave me the confidence that I was able to achieve them.

Then, during my postdoctoral training at Yale University (with Dr. Daniel DiMaio and Dr. Joan Steitz), I experienced “the scientific rush” of being in an Ivy League institution surrounded by Nobel laureates and cutting-edge research. Now as an independent scientist, I have been able to collaborate with incredible scientists from all around the world. From collaborations with professors here at WVU, Marshall and Alderson Broaddus, to collaboration with scientist in Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Thank you to Dr. Martinez for sharing some of his experiences. We look forward to sharing interviews with other faculty, students and staff in the future.