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I’m fortunate to have two great mentors: Dr Merv Yoder and Dr. Rebecca Chan. They are the mentors who sit on my research committee, oversee my project, fund my experiments, and they will ultimately decide if/when I graduate. Their expertise complement one another and I would be utterly unable to perform my studies without their mutual support.


On a daily basis, however, I am advised by other senior members of their labs. One in particular has stood out. Dr. Momoko Yoshimoto has introduced me to all experimental approaches that I now use to answer my research questions. A selected list:

Flow cytometry.

Methylcellulose Progenitor Assays.

Co-culture systems.

Cytospins and blood smear slides.

qRT-PCR analysis.

Embryonic dissections.

Adult tissue analysis.

Transfection and transduction experiments.


In addition to experimental techniques, Momoko equally gave me key insights into the science of blood. Over informal discussions, journal clubs, and in the middle of our own experiments she taught me the hierarchies of progenitor cells, the signaling pathways that drive them, and the models I can use to study them.


Momoko had the most wonderful way of greeting me in the morning. No “How was your evening?” and no references to the difficult commute to campus. Instead she welcomed me with “I was thinking about your data last night …” and within a few minutes my mind would be a blur of new strategies to tackle my project.


This story has a happy ending: having spent a decade working with Dr. Yoder and building her own research programme, Dr. Yoshimoto has obtained her own research grants, she has published her own findings, and she has obtained an offer to establish her own lab in Houston. She left this Friday to begin her own career as an independent Principal Investigator.


For me, Momoko’s parting is a double-edged sword. She’s been a daily presence and help in my studies. Her absence robs me of one of my best research guides. On the other hand, with my safety net removed, I can more fully evaluate my abilities. Will I still be able to perform the same complex experiments? Will I find new guides when I encounter novel challenges? Most importantly: will I be able to find others who share my interests with whom I can discuss my work?


Beyond techniques and knowledge, Momoko’s lasting legacy for me will be an approach to science. Her experiments were meticulous and thorough. No shortcuts were taken, no quality left unmeasured; every detail was noted and therefore she could reproduce her findings time and time again.  Momoko would not tolerate haphazard efforts. She was unequivocal when she saw that I did not take full advantage of an opportunity. I cherished such clear feedback and now seek to model my own uncompromising approach to science.


I look forward to seeing & reading about Momoko’s work as an independent PI. Working with her, I’ve had the distinct impression that I’m interacting with a great scientist who is on the verge of stardom. I eagerly await to see how that transformation unfolds and what new findings she will illuminate.


Good luck Momoko! And my deep gratitude for all that you have done.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Stefan Tarnawsky

MS4 MD/PhD Student. Going into Internal Medicine; interested in Heme/Onc. Bread baker, bonsai artist, aspiring astronomer.