Psychology alumna finds her happy land in the world of oligonucleotide chemistry
Susan Ramos-Hunter, PhD ’10 grew up in the northern California town of Placerville, amidst the rural rolling hills and oaks of the Sierra foothills. She attended public schools through the sixth grade, then was home schooled for the rest of her education. At age 16, she began taking college courses because she did not have the opportunity to earn college credit like students attending high schools. She visited numerous schools trying to find the right fit, including UC Davis, Sacramento State and Humboldt State. After visiting Ashland and SOU, she found the right conditions for developing her higher education.
Initially, she moved to Ashland but studied at Rogue Community College to earn credits and save money. Susan came to SOU at age twenty-one as a non-traditional student. “I connected with Dr. Mark Krause in the psychology department as a teacher and human being. He had me involved with the psychology honor society, Psi Chi, which gave me the opportunity to meet people, fellow majors and students from other universities,” she said. “The volunteer aspect of it all was a good fit for me.”
Her junior year she began to talk to her mentor, Mark, more often about a possible career, leading her to inquire about the Ronald E. McNair Achievement Program. The McNair program, provides tools and skills for non-traditional and underrepresented minorities entering graduate level education. “I had no history in my family of any graduate studies or degrees so connecting with to Dr. Dee Southard, who headed our McNair program, I began to diversify my academic load and take more science courses and grew to really enjoy them,” said Susan. By her senior year she had finished her core psychology courses and took as many biology and chemistry courses as she could. In Dr. Laura Hughes’ general chemistry course, Susan felt the crunch of a difficult first exam. Laura asked her if she studied and her answer was an honest “no.” Taking up the challenge to improve her grades and master the course, she found a love of chemistry, specifically organic chemistry in Dr. Hala Schepmann’s series of classes. In June of 2010, Susan earned her bachelor of science in psychology with a minor in chemistry, a minor that would prove to be invaluable in the next steps of her journey. “I felt so privileged and proud to graduate that day. I was so excited for my future.” Susan recalled.
In the fall of 2010, Susan was accepted into an accelerated chemistry masters and doctorate program at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She completed her PhD program in organic synthesis and chemical biology soon thereafter, earning her doctorate in chemistry in 2016.
Susan began her professional scientific career for the Department of Energy at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. Later, she became the Senior Scientist at Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals in Madison, WI, researching oligonucleotide therapeutics. Recently, she accepted the role at Entrada Therapeutics as a Senior Scientist in oligonucleotide discovery chemistry in Boston, MA. “I often recall on my undergraduate chemistry courses for even daily tasks! I didn’t appreciate how well-prepared I was for industry with the chemistry training at SOU.” As a senior scientist at Entrada, Susan is a part of a team synthesizing cutting edge bio-therapeutics, collectively working towards a cure for Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to take advanced placement courses in high school so it was a challenge for me to dive into science as an undergrad. But in the chemistry program at SOU, I found my happy land even though I was a psychology major. I felt right at home, challenged, and respected for my journey despite being a non-traditional student. I’ll always be grateful for my time in Ashland and my mentors on the SOU campus.”
Learn more: Entrada Therapeutics