CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Science en A master’s degree despite detours: one alum’s inspiring story <div class="row bs-1col node node--type-news node--view-mode-rss"> <div class="col-sm-12 bs-region bs-region--main"> <div class="field field--name-node-title field--type-ds field--label-hidden field--item"><h1 class="news-title"> A master’s degree despite detours: one alum’s inspiring story </h1> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-sub-component field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field--item"> <div class="pl-component pl-component--news-headline-topfold news-wrapper"> <div class="news-author">Author: Kanaga Rajan </div> <div class="news-info"> <div class="news-date"> April 25, 2023 </div> <div class="field field--name-field-p-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"> <img loading="lazy" src="/sites/default/files/styles/sf_state_1440x564/public/images/MentorMentee_1200x700.jpg?h=9415e7d9&amp;itok=Rr9x8THi" width="1440" height="564" alt="Two smiling people pipetting for a molecular biology experiment" class="img-responsive" /> </div> <div class="pull-right photo-credit">Photo Credit: Paul Asper </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-component field--type-entity-reference-revisions field--label-hidden field--items"> <div class="field--item"><div class="pl-component pl-component--content-basic" > <div class="field field--name-field-p-formatted-content field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><h2>Science communicator Yimy Antonio Villa (M.S., ’21) tells today’s students it’s never too late to finish what you started</h2> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field--item"><div class="pl-component pl-component--content-basic" > <div class="field field--name-field-p-formatted-content field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In 2020, science communicator Yimy Antonio Villa returned (virtually) to his alma mater, San Francisco State University, to speak to students about his career. His main message: you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Not long afterward, he got a chance to practice what he'd preached. </p> <p>Villa had been offering advice via Zoom to students in San Francisco State’s California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Bridges to Stem Cell Science program — a graduate program Villa himself had to first drop out of nearly a decade ago. After his talk, he got a message from the University’s CIRM Bridges Director Lily Chen.</p> <p>“Lily Chen reached out to me and said, ‘You know that regret that you have [about not completing your master’s degree]? It doesn’t have to be a regret,’” Villa said.<em> </em></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field--item"><div class="pl-component pl-component--content-basic" > <div class="field field--name-field-p-formatted-content field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Programs like the University’s CIRM Bridges — which was <a href="">recently renewed for another five years</a> — and the new undergraduate program <a href="">CIRM COMPASS</a> (Creating Opportunities through Mentorship and Partnership Across Stem Cell Science) train students in stem cell biology and expose them to a variety of career paths. And Chen wasn’t giving up on Villa.</p> <p>At the height of the pandemic, he reenrolled in the University’s Cell and Molecular Biology master’s program with an emphasis in Stem Cell Biology, completing his graduate degree in 2021 — almost 10 years after he originally left the program.</p> <p>The long delay for Villa resulted from family obligations. He came to SF State to get a master’s degree as preparation for a Ph.D. and managed to complete one year of the program before deferring for a year because his mother was experiencing health problems. Although he tried to return, he left again when he had to help his mother — an undocumented immigrant from Mexico — as his family’s primary breadwinner. He worked jobs outside of science, like as a receptionist for a pharmacy benefits management company, but always itched to return to the field he loved.</p> <p>In 2016, SF State Biology Professor Carmen Domingo — at the time the University’s CIRM Bridges director and now dean of the College of Science &amp; Engineering — forwarded a job opportunity at a nonprofit organization called Americans for Cures. The group educates the public about stem cell research and its impact on medical therapies. Villa snagged the job and started down a new career path.</p> <p>The experience offered him a new way to apply his training as a scientist and taught him the art of sharing science to non-expert audiences. He also worked closely with patients and advocates who gave him a new perspective on medical research.</p> <p>“It really highlighted to me the importance as a scientist or as anyone that is trying to propose a therapy or market some kind of a treatment … what makes it more important is that personal connection,” Villa said.</p> <p>Around the time he returned to SF State in 2021, he was also working at CIRM as a marketing communications manager. After completing his master’s, he started a new position as manager of executive communications at Stanford Medicine, where he focuses on social media content and strategy for executive leadership.</p> <p>Through it all, his mother — who did not have educational opportunities herself growing up — remained his biggest supporter. Now he’s a master’s degree recipient and an integral part of a larger communications team  — and she’s a legal U.S. resident planning on applying for citizenship later this year.</p> <p>“Don’t be afraid to do a career change or to explore something else that you may want to do,” Villa said he now advises students. “Also understand that’s perfectly normal.”</p> <p><a href=""><em>Learn more about the University’s CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Science program.</em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field--item"> <div class="paragraph paragraph--type--basic-image paragraph--view-mode--default"> <div class="field field--name-field-p-image field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--item"><img class="pl-component pl-component--img img-responsive img-default" src="/sites/default/files/images/YimyVilla_200x300.jpg" alt="Headshot of a Yimy Villa smiling"> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>Tags</p> <div class="tags-item"> <ul class="list-inline"> <li > <a href="/tags/tags/alumni-news" hreflang="en">Alumni News</a></li> <li > <a href="/tags/tags/college-science-and-engineering" hreflang="en">College of Science and Engineering</a></li> <li > <a href="/tags/tags/biology" hreflang="en">Biology</a></li> <li > <a href="/tags/tags/cirm-bridges-stem-cell-science" hreflang="en">CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Science</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> Tue, 25 Apr 2023 21:00:00 +0000 Kanaga Rajan 326 at