BLaST Scientist of the Month for January 2022: Natalia Podlutskaya

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Natalia Podlutskaya

Natalia Podlutskaya, a research advising and mentoring professional, has been with the Biomedical Learning and Student Training program, known as BLaST, since 2015. She earned her master's of science degree in biology at Kharkov University, Ukraine.

“My profession and passion for science led me to many labs in the U.S. However, for the past nine years, I have lived in Alaska,” she said.  “I fell in love with nature, people, and especially the Fairbanks community. I enjoy exploring nature, hiking, and camping in my free time.”

Podlutskaya’s passion for research led her to projects such as “Diabetes in Alaska Native People,” “Hibernation and DNA repair,” and “I'qmik toxicity,” which focused on DNA damage and repair, under prinicipal investigator and former BLaST faculty pilot project awardee Andrej Podlutsky.

Podlutskaya trained many students to learn molecular biology techniques, particularly cell culture and comet assay. “I enjoy teaching students in laboratory settings and seeing their professional growth.”

Podlustkaya has helped many undergraduate students enter biomedical research over the years at UAF. She was instrumental in forming strong collaborations across many partner departments and institutions. Her courses are built around students' interest and desire to know more about biomedical research and research processes. Podlutskaya helped collaborate BLaST coursework with the Alaska Summer Research Academy in 2015, and Rural Alaska Honors Institute in 2020 and 2021. Podlutskaya also coordinated many BLaST workshops such as the research mixers, summer One Health workshops for Fort Lewis College students in 2019, and for Xavier University students in 2019.

Podlutskaya has fond memories teaching and coordinating the BLaST Biomedical Exploration Experience courses in the summers of 2016 to 2019.  “I enjoy teaching the  BLaST-sponsored courses to help undergraduate students consider a career in medicine or science," she said. "The students met with health care professionals and explored medical careers through doctor's presentations, facilities’ visits, medical simulations, and hands-on activities. Students participated in research projects, met with principal investigators, graduate students, and learned about their projects during these courses.”

Since 2015, Podlutskaya has mentored approximately 40 undergraduate students through her research projects, along with 24 BLaST scholars and 15 undergraduate researchers. Her philosophy is to help students find their dream research projects, discover their passion in science or medicine, and help them to determine their career paths.

“I'm thankful for the experiences with my students," she said. "I believe mentoring is a two-way street; it's a relationship where both contribute to each other. I learned a lot from my students, and they are all brilliant people.”

As part of the mentoring experience, Podlutskaya attended the University of New Mexico Mentoring Conference, Experimental Biology Conference, Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students, One Health Conference, and the Western Alaska Interior Science Conference.

The Biomedical Learning and Student Training program at UAF highlights scientists from all biomedical fields through the Scientist of the Month articles. These articles are shared across the UAF and University of Alaska Southeast campuses, and all BLaST partner institutions, which include Iļisaġvik College, Fort Lewis College, Diné College, Salish Kootenai College, and Alaska Pacific University. More about the current and past Scientists of the Month are recognized on the BLaST website.