In the top corner above the Assistant Superintendent’s desk is a small sign which reads “Live your life with purpose and intention.” When it comes to her own life, Dr. Isabelle Resende has always been driven by goals of inspiring young women to pursue careers in STEM. These intentions come from a lifetime of experiences working in genetic research and science.
Similar to her own drive as an educational professional, Dr. Resende was first inspired by a teacher of her own. Though she claims she did not meet society’s ‘qualifications’ for being the perfect student-being a first generation immigrant who barely knew a word of English when she entered elementary school- her high school biology teacher instilled a passion for solving problems which were aimed to better society.
|Photo Credit: Nazarethasd.org|
After graduating from Moravian College, Resende did just that. Dr. Resende went to Maryland post grad to work under Dr. Craig Venter on the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was a decade long venture, discovering the complex and beautiful workup of genetics in the human body. Taking ode to previous DNA studies, The Human Genome Project separated the nucleotides of extracted DNA tagging each sequence, and sorting them into the “book of life.” After the DNA segments were tagged, researchers had the ability to analyze the sequences and detect any abnormalities for various ailments ranging from heart disease to diabetes. In her sector of the lab, Dr. Resende was one of the only females of the dominantly male group, working day and night to bend the stereotype set in place for women in science.
Following the Human Genome Project, Resende moved to further humanitarian work and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, researching Neuroblastoma, an often fatal form of pediatric cancer. Her work at CHOP was long and tedious, as she spent hours upon hours working with other world renowned scientists trying to find a genetic explanation for the cancer. While the work was nonprofit, Resende knew that monetary value was not the point of science. “How are you helping human society?” She asks. “How are you helping your community? Nonprofit work provided help for families to come,” she explained, expressing her gratitude for the work. Dr. Resende and her team were published in Nature Genetics, a prestigious scientific magazine following their outstanding work in helping the families of tomorrow battle through the toughest time of their lives.
By then, Dr. Resende had already accomplished so much in her career, but she felt that she was at a crossroads. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a graduate degree in Biochemistry, she had planned to run her own research laboratory. However, she noticed that while fulfilling, a lab hindered her ultimate passion-human interaction. Now she had a choice: would she go into nursing, a fairly scientific approach, or would she share her experiences and better society through inspiring youth in the classroom? She chose the latter, attending Lehigh University to obtain her master’s in education. From there, Dr. Resende never stopped teaching-or learning. While teaching AP Biology for many years, she earned her certification to become principal and from there her administrative certification.
Looking around her office, at all the things she had accomplished through her career, I asked her what her greatest accomplishment was. She says that it was her ability to inspire several female students to go on into scientific research to reshape the gender game like she had. “It’s all about connections.” She recounts. “And relationships. And how we work together to make that goal.” In fact she said it best: “It’s not about a position or a title. It’s about encouraging others to find your own dreams.” She made it clear that dreams are not always a clear path. In fact, dreams often change while you’re in them. “I often look around and ask myself how did I get here?” she says, smiling. While her long term goal in high school was not to be the Assistant Superintendent of one of the best school districts in the state, Dr. Resende feels that she is where she belongs and fulfilling her purpose.
Every day Dr. Resende inspires young girls in our district to reach their goals in STEM careers. Through her story, dedication to the community, and willingness to keep learning, she is continuing to spread her message.
I closed our conversation by asking advice for young girls who are interested in careers in science. Her face lit up as if she had been waiting for the question her whole life. “If you have a passion for life, and you’re curious about the world around you, go for it. Challenge yourself.”