EEB Insider: Maria Rebolleda-Gomez

What made you decide to pursue a Ph.D. in the U of M's EEB program?

As an undergraduate student, I came to the University of Minnesota to do some of my thesis experiments in Michael Travisano's lab. I spent one semester here. During that time, I had the opportunity to talk and interact with many graduate students and faculty in the department. Pretty soon it became clear to me that the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (EEB) at the U of M is a dynamic and collaborative space. Both within and outside the laboratory I found this to be an exciting and intellectually stimulating place. 

Tell us about your research.

The evolution of multicellular organisms (like us) involves cooperation of previously autonomous cells. These cells lose much of their autonomy and become part of a larger and more complex unit. My project is interested in the consequences of this transition. What are the potential conflicts between cells and how, despite loosing much of their autonomy and "individuality" these cells are still able evolve and perform completely different functions. 

For those not from Minnesota, what is a Minnesota winter like?

I grew up in Mexico City and I had not seen snow falling before 2009. Minnesota winters are (as most people say) cold and long, but they are also fun and pretty. Last winter I started to practice cross country skiing and it has significantly changed the way I see winter.

For those who don't consider themselves "city people," does the University of Minnesota feel like an urban campus?

The EEB department is in St. Paul, not the larger Minneapolis campus. The Saint Paul campus is small and in a much less urban area. If you live close to the St. Paul campus it would barely feel like a city. But even if that is not enough, there are many great outdoor places at only a few miles away from the Cities. In my perspective, one of the great things about the Twin Cities, in general, and the University, in particular, is that they offer the advantages of a big city with a lot happening, while at the same time providing great spaces for outdoor recreation.

Some graduate programs feel somewhat cutthroat. Is that the case with EEB?

The EEB department somehow manages to be an excellent program with great research and amazing students while at the same time keeping a more relaxed and collaborative environment. Students and faculty have always been friendly and helpful to me and it is really easy to approach anyone in the department when you have a question.

Once you have your Ph.D., what are you going to do with your degree?

Ideally, I want to do research in a research university (after a few years as a post-doc). Best case scenario, I would love to work back in Mexico teaching and doing research.