Emilia Galperin, PhD, is a professor in the UK College of Medicine Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry and currently vice chair for research and administration. She also serves on several College of Medicine committees, including the Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Committee.

Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) shines a spotlight on Dr. Galperin’s achievements in research, education, and faculty advancement – and how collaboration has helped her become a successful leader.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a research career?

A: As an undergraduate student at Tel-Aviv University, I had the opportunity to conduct a research project in a lab studying a congenital metabolic disease called Gaucher disease. There, I was exposed to experimental molecular biology and molecular genetics. I really enjoyed the experimental work, the path from the question to the answer, the fast pace, and the always-changing nature of basic research. From there, I never questioned what to do next and continued to graduate school and then postdoctoral training.

Q: What are some of your current projects?

A: The current focus of my lab is rare congenital diseases caused by mutations in the genes of the canonical intracellular signaling pathway called the MAPK1/2 signaling pathway. We are also interested in proteins called scaffolds. Scaffolds are essential in regulating intracellular signaling, but their functions need to be better understood. We take various lines of research to gain a better insight into the functions of this protein and molecular mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of heritable diseases caused by the mutations in the corresponding genes.

Q: How long have you been involved in WIMS, and how has that helped you in your career?

A: I became interested in WIMS right after joining the University of Kentucky as an assistant professor. I sought guidance and shared experiences on balancing a family and a demanding academic career. I am a naturally introverted person and don’t make connections easily. At WIMS, I met very successful women who were humble about their success stories. Such humility motivated me to apply for the WIMS travel award to attend the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Mid-Career Women's Seminar for Professional Development. This, in turn, led to my current position as a vice chair and other learning opportunities in leadership skills.

Q: What are some of your past accomplishments that you are most proud of?

A: Over the past 10 years, I have built a successful research program and established several productive collaborations. I have ventured into developing new advanced model organisms that have elevated my interdisciplinary program, including cutting-edge zebrafish work and CRISPR/Cas9 techniques. My independent research program has been continuously funded by NIH and private foundations. I received several academic honors, including an NIH Pathway to Independence Award for cancer research (NCI K99/R00) and an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award.

Q: What advice do you have for a person interested in following a research career?

A: Find a mentor who will give you practical and honest advice. Take tough questions and critiques as learning opportunities. I have learned that collaborative science is more successful. Finding this collaborator will lead to more successful science.