Cameron Varano, a fourth-year doctoral student in Virginia Tech’s translational biology, medicine, and health program, was recently voted president-elect of the Microscopy Society of America’s (MSA) student council. The position is a three-year commitment, as Varano will serve a year as president-elect, another year as president, and a final year as past president.

Varano conducts structural biology research in the laboratory of Deborah Kelly, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and one of the biological sciences director for the MSA. Varano, originally from Winchester, Virginia, earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech and joined Kelly’s lab in 2015. 

“It’s the second year of the student council’s existence, and we’re making a lot of progress,” Varano said. “We work hand-in-hand with the MSA’s council, which sheds light on the inner workings of the society and allows us to mirror their work at the student level. It’s a great professional development opportunity for students.”

Varano co-chaired the society’s inaugural pre-meeting congress for students, postdoctoral associates, and early career professionals at the MSA’s annual meeting in July, with the goal of bringing new, young scientists together.

“The inaugural congress was a success, allowing us to start building our network of colleagues at the national level,” Varano said. “We’re really motivated to provide similar professional development throughout the year, beyond the MSA’s annual meeting, for students and early career scientists.”

The professional development goes beyond sharing program-specific science, Varano said.

“Every discipline has a different way of presenting — biologists are super visual, while material scientists tend to share more equations — it’s emboldening to know that there’s no right or wrong to sharing science broadly,” she said. “Participating in a national society with a broad national meeting provides a zoom-out perspective on my own studies.”

The broadness of microscopy as a tool brings scientists and engineers from several different fields of research and application together to exchange ideas and solve problems.

“It’s an honor to be elected president-elect of the MSA student council, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to participate in this society,” Varano said. “The great interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge share is the best professional development I could have.”

Kelly encourages Varano’s scientific growth and is in agreement that professional associations, such as the MSA, provide unmatched career support and guidance for researchers.

“Cameron’s work and enthusiastic encouragement of her peers is admirable. I’m proud, and excited for her increased role in the MSA,” Kelly said. 

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