University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ)
MD/Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences
Jessian Munoz was born to a registered nurse and mother of four children in Coamo, Puerto Rico. So it is no surprise that as a high school student Jessian developed an interest in both biological sciences and patient care. He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey, Magna cum Laude in 2009 with a B.S. in Biology and then moved to New Jersey to continue his studies in an MD/Ph.D. program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ), New Jersey Medical School/Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (NJMS/GSBS) in the heart of Newark, New Jersey’s largest city. His decision to pursue graduate study was influenced by the academic success of his first mentor, his mother, who graduated with a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) a few weeks before he earned his B.S. degree.
Jessian is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the lab of Dr. Pranela Rameshwar in the department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology and is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2016. Under Dr. Rameshwar’s guidance, Jessian’s thesis research uses a model of human mesenchymal stem cells to understand the resistance of brain tumors to chemotherapy. His curriculum vitae is impressive; among many endowed scholarships and fellowships in his career dating back to 2006, he was also named as a Sloan Scholar. The Sloan Minority Ph.D. Scholarship Program is a program that has been managed by the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc. (NACME) since 2001. In 2012, Jessian was awarded the Dean Morris Schaffer Endowed Scholarship for Excellence as a graduate student. He has published a number of book chapters, and articles in journals such as Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (2008), Stem Cells and Development (2011), Clinical and Translational Science (2011), Differentiation (2012) and Cancer Letters (2013).
He is known by his peers as Jesse, the “man who doesn’t sleep,” or the “bionic student,” but his mentors at UMDNJ refer to him as the student who, “leaps tall buildings in a single bound.” Jesse is not only the 2012-13 President of the Graduate Student Association (GSA), he has also served as the treasurer of the GSA and has co-authored two Alumni Association community service grants, which provides funding to a program, Students Learning About Medicine (SLAM). Under this program, students from UMDNJ provide workshops and seminars to high school students in the community to raise awareness about careers in the biomedical sciences, among other health-related topics.
When asked what he considered his greatest accomplishment, Jesse pointed to his success in maintaining a balance between high-impact scientific research, while providing the highest quality of healthcare to his community. “As a combined MD/Ph.D. candidate at UMDNJ, I have been given the opportunity to not only care for people in need, but to take it a step further and investigate new therapies for these patients’ conditions. In this clearly ‘bench-to-bedside’ translational environment, I have been given many opportunities and support from scientists, physicians and physician-scientists,” Jesse said.
Jesse explains that, “communication is key for both professional development and academic progression. Sloan has not only allowed me to travel to a number of scientific meetings, but also to participate in the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring.” While at that meeting in Tampa, Florida in October 2012, Jesse was able to share his research and learned from his peers. He was also able to expand his network and establish new relationships with others in his field. He continues, “the Sloan Ph.D. Scholars program has clearly opened many doors for me with many more to come.”
As far as advice for any student considering a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) major and career, Jesse refers back to the advice that his graduate mentor, Dr. Rameshwar, gave him, “when you care about something with true passion, others will notice that and will support you, whatever your endeavors may be.”
A Special Message from Dr. Pranela Rameshwar:
“I have trained several graduate students, including those in the dual MD/Ph.D. program and I strongly believe that Jessian will be a future physician/scientist leader in medicine. Jessian’s motivation is unlike others. He is not only creative, but is collegial and enjoys sharing information with others. Jessian has already published several papers and I am expecting additional publications. Jessian’s leadership skills, combined with his motivation and creativity will make him a success. Evidence of Jessian’s creativity is the topic of his research. He has developed a new area of research in the laboratory to study the resistance of Glioblastoma.”