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YourStory: Reflections

Submissions (alphabetical order)

Aayush Boddu, CMS Class of 2023

Dr. Franklin lived in a world and several decades apart from my own. While World War II was looming in Europe, Rosalind Franklin was an 18-year-old Jewish woman attending Cambridge who had the aptitude and courage to question the standard of the chemistry lectures she received. Her father questioned paying for her second year of the school when war efforts became a focus of civilian life in England. Her laboratory at King’s College had fewer resources than peer teams working on figuring out the structure and function of DNA, including Watson and Crick. She took the pivotal picture that changed the way that we understand the basics of life, and she did not receive the Nobel Prize for her work. Many of these obstacles were influenced by her sex, because she grew up during a time in which women were not always rewarded for their work. To quote Dr. Franklin's biographer, Brenda Maddox, "Rosalind knew her worth. With every prospect of going on to further significant achievement and possibly, personal happiness, she was cheated of the only thing she really wanted: the chance to complete her work. The lost prize was life."

Her life has inspired millions of young people in future generations to go into STEM who may otherwise not have done so.
Aayush Boddu

Her life has inspired millions of young people in future generations to go into STEM who may otherwise not have done so. I think she is an example of how in order for things to change and progress, people need to put the work in even though they may not be the first to reap the benefits.

In one of my undergraduate biochemistry courses, a professor showed a picture of Photograph 51, the X-ray crystallography picture that uncovered the basis of how all life came to exist. Going into medicine was always on my radar but this picture clarified the path I took to get into medical school. Along with inspiring me to study a chemistry-based understanding of science, it exposed me to a different way of thinking. It forced me to take more challenging math and physics courses. It put me in contact not only with peers who had backgrounds completely different than my own, but also with professors who challenged scientific dogma to find a more complete explanation behind biological processes. I think this path helped me understand that learning for the sake of gaining knowledge, rather than trying to get a grade or score or a Nobel Prize, is rewarding in itself.

Marianne Chirica, MS '2021
Psychology: Clinical Counseling

Dr. Rosalind Franklin has inspired me to strive for greatness, despite barriers that I might face pursuing a career in academia, where women continue to be underrepresented and encounter many roadblocks. As a female researcher, Dr. Franklin changed the future of science by discovering imperative biological information. She led pioneering work throughout her life, and contributed to the advancement of our understanding of DNA, biology and life.

The creation of Photograph 51 led my interest in biology, which eventually transformed into my love for research.
Marianne Chirica

The creation of Photograph 51 led my interest in biology, which eventually transformed into my love for research. Her accomplishments have made me realize my potential as a female researcher and clinician. I aspire to be a successful researcher like Dr. Rosalind Franklin. She opened up the door for many women scientists and researchers who also hope to make great advancements in science.

Emil Chuck, PhD
Director of Admissions and Recruitment
Student Enrollment Management

I am inspired by the fact Dr. Franklin continued on as a scientist after her experience at King’s College. After leaving, she found a more supportive community at Birkbeck College and didn't let the snubs or lack of credit deter her from research as she went on to characterize the tobacco mosaic virus and set the foundation for modern virology.

It is telling how much one's success really can be a function of one's environment and support, and how our university tries to emulate this throughout its culture is laudable.

Rosalind Franklin and her legacy continues to encourage many more women to pursue science and medicine as careers. I imagine that Dr. Franklin had drawn inspiration from Marie Curie, given that they both dealt with ionizing radiation to learn more about nature.

Cynthia Colon-Rivera, DNP '21
Nurse Anesthesia Program

Dr. Franklin’s challenging and groundbreaking work motivates me to work hard towards my degree and the safety of my patients. I imagine her working endless hours to achieve her discovery of the double helix DNA structure. The creation of Photograph 51 by Dr. Franklin inspires me to persist in attaining my professional and personal goals, just as Dr. Franklin did during her lifetime.

Carolina Figueroa, CHP Class of 2022
Physician Assistant Program

Dr. Rosalind Franklin inspired me to pursue science because it is my passion, and she also taught me to challenge myself to become the best version of myself. She did what she loved, despite much of her credit being stolen. This has pushed me to continue to pursue my goals and to become a  better provider for my patients regardless of the barriers that may stand in the way.

The creation of Photograph 51 hasn't changed my path, but it has changed my perspective. When I see our logo, this historical landmark, I'm reminded that, even while studying to be a physician assistant, I am not defined by society’s markers of success, like grades and test scores, because there is so much value and beauty in learning and doing what you love.

The creation of Photograph 51 hasn't changed my path, but it has changed my perspective.
Carolina Figueroa

By following your passion, great advancements for mankind, such as Photograph 51, can pave the ways for change in our society.

I'm grateful to be attending a school that honors Dr. Franklin’s legacy and further grateful to be a part of a program that mirrors many of her, and my, values.

Donna Frownfelter, PT, DPT ’03, MA, CCS, RRT, FCCP,
Assistant Professor and Program Director, tDPT College of Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy

If a woman could make such an impact at Dr. Franklin’s time and age, think about how much more we should be able to do. Sadly, there are still many obstacles in the path not only of a researcher, but of women in general. In looking at her story, there is hope and energy to continue. She was focused, able to imagine her path and pursue it against all odds.

Jennifer Greenwood, CRNA, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Health Professions

Dr. Rosalind Franklin’s reputation was tarnished because of the perceptions of some of her male colleagues. They misrepresented her insistent and confident demeanor as being "difficult" to work with. Despite having to work in multiple labs to continue her research, she was unapologetic and undeterred. As a female, I am inspired by Dr. Franklin to be confident, assertive, and to not apologize for that demeanor. I would like to see the contributions of women given the respect they deserve based on their merits rather than the perception of the woman / women that made them.

As a female, I am inspired by Dr. Franklin to be confident, assertive, and not apologize for that demeanor.
Jennifer Greenwood

Women can do better to support each other in this endeavor.

I imagine that she would be proud of the work women have done in science and the leadership they have shown, despite much adversity. With Dr. Franklin as namesake of this university, I believe it is fitting to have several women in the highest leadership positions.

Lindsay Karson, CMS Class of 2022

Dr. Rosalind Franklin inspires me because she was able to make a career in science despite it being a male-dominated profession. I am going into a male-dominated career and I think of her courage and her tenacity. I see her as a woman who stood up for herself and the multitudes of women around her.

The creation of Photograph 51 changed my path, and I became more interested in the technologic side of medicine and am considering a career in radiology.

Rea Katz, PhD, PA-C
Associate Professor, College of Health Professions, Department of Physician Assistant Practice

Rosalind Franklin’s heritage is my heritage. She was my mother’s contemporary; a Jew of Ashkenazi background; a woman of a certain age living in a certain era. They shared a love of science on an atomic level, as well as a vast curiosity about the world. Together Dr. Franklin and Estelle Z. Katz (nee Zoghlin) paved the way for me and my daughter to live full lives as educated women devoted to family, career, our communities, and the world.

They lived in different English-speaking countries growing up in a supportive Jewish communities—one an immigrant community in the heart of Chicago, the other a well-established community in Britain. Estelle became the first of her family to attend and graduate university earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois-Champaign Urbana. While Dr. Franklin’s upper middle class family offered her the stepping stones to attain an elite education despite discrimination against women’s advancement.

Rosalind Franklin’s heritage is my heritage.
Rea Katz

She went on to pursue a doctoral degree and her research interests, using meticulous crystallography methods to ferret out the shape of DNA. My mother was one of many women recruited to work in the Manhattan Project’s metallurgy department located under the University of Chicago stadium. She and her colleagues facilitated the development of the atom bomb that, for better or worse, ended WWII.

Rosalind Franklin’s life, born 5 years before my mother, was cut short, dying at age 38 from ovarian cancer. In contrast my mother lived a full life-time stretching from the industrial through digital ages; fading from this earth at age 93 with advanced dementia. Their life trajectories diverged further in that Dr. Franklin remained single and did not have children; instead dedicating her short life to her work and research efforts. In contrast Estelle married in her mid-20’s and, like many college educated women of her time, forsook a career in order to support her husband and family by running a household and raising four children. My mother’s life-long dream to become a medical doctor was never to be realized, but she did become an accomplished social justice volunteer and dedicated elementary school teacher. She fostered in her children, grandchildren, students, and friends the habit of reflective examination of politics, racial equality, education, gender equity, and socio-economic disparities.

Rosalind E. Franklin and Estelle Z. Katz may have also shared the Ashkenazi genetic predisposition to develop ovarian cancer. The researcher’s work laid the ground work for discovering and testing for the BRCA genes. Several members of Estelle’s family died of ovarian cancer. Genetic inheritance aside, both of these women, in their own ways, bequeathed to me, my family, my generation, and my people examples of ways that strong women can succeed and thrive in the face of misogyny, discrimination and misrepresentation. By bettering our world through their curiosity about its building blocks and advocacy of scientific inquiry they both modeled a “life in discovery.” 

Christina Mason, CHP Class of 2022
Physician Assistant Program

Dr. Rosalind Franklin inspires me to continue to push full force ahead despite the challenges or injustices that I'll face. Being a woman of color in medicine is an uphill battle and there aren't as many of us compared to our counterparts, but what I do today will set the stage for the next person of color. Her story reminds me that each of my steps matter, regardless if I'm there to see the end or not.

The creation of the Photograph 51 spearheaded a major shift in medicine that was needed. It allowed for the previous decades of work to come to a head, although the credit was not rightfully given to her.

I'm grateful to attend an institution that prides themselves in the values that Dr. Franklin stood on.

Her story reminds me that each of my steps matter, regardless if I'm there to see the end or not.
Christina Mason

I imagine what her life would have been like had she not succumbed to cancer, what else would she have discovered, what other groundbreaking work would she have laid the foundation for, and what other legacies would have come from her lineage? 

June Mayor, Research Lab Manager
Center for Proteomics & Molecular Therapeutics

Rosalind Elsie Franklin is the unsung heroine of molecular and structural biology; the epitome of quiet fortitude and perseverance in an atmosphere of misogyny, paucity of female peers, and anti-Semitism. The Spanish philosopher Maimonides described a tzaddik, a righteous person, as someone whose merits exceed their demands, someone who makes the world measurably better. Dr. Franklin is a Tzaddik: her discovery of the DNA structure laid the foundation for all of recombinant biology henceforth, including the mRNA-based vaccines with which we are being immunized today. When Ron (Kaplan) and I first arrived at Finch University in 1997, someone at the lunch table suggested a renaming of the university. My immediate response was Rosalind Franklin.

Judith Potashkin, PhD
Professor and Director of Faculty Affairs
Chicago Medical School

Dr. Franklin's devotion to seeking answers in research, even when the experimental conditions were complex, is very inspirational. The patience and skill she employed to keep the DNA samples at the proper humidity was the key to her beautiful X-ray crystallography. My love of molecular biology is a direct result of her research. It is one of the major reasons I chose to become a researcher.

When I reflect on her life, I imagine the joy Dr. Franklin felt at seeing her data transformed into the beautiful model of the double helix. The simple structure answered so many outstanding questions about DNA that she knew that science had taken a major leap forward.

George Rattin
Executive Director of Development
Division of Institutional Advancement

I did not know very much about our namesake before coming to work here. Since I have been able to learn more about Rosalind Franklin's life and her work, I have been inspired by her focus, tenacity and sacrifice. Her story has helped reinvigorate my determination, commitment and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and pushes me to do my best with the tasks at hand.  I am also inspired to share her story of a "life in discovery" with my family and others I meet.

Dr. Franklin’s life of grit and promise was cut short, and her accomplishments went without the appropriate recognition in her time. The creation of Photograph 51 shows me that the work of my life may have ripples that I will not see but may change people's lives. So it is important to do the work and do it well.

Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM 
President, CEO and Professor

In Rosalind Franklin, I see a model of courage and resilience that all health and biomedical professionals can emulate. She persisted in difficult times and navigated obstacles to create the highly-collaborative environment that led to groundbreaking work on the tobacco mosaic virus by her lab at Birkbeck College.

She found strength in her family, friends, and in the serenity she discovered in her mountain treks across Europe. Her strong work/life balance, the way she challenged herself both mentally and physically, and the care and compassion she showed her family, friends and colleagues are lessons for us all.

Dr. Franklin’s belief in science and her pursuit of clarity in her work to understand the structure of DNA and viruses speak to the core of our mission. Like her, we are committed to improving the lives and health of humankind. Like her, we live and work at the intersection of science and everyday life, where teamwork, communication, and ethical conduct are crucial to our success.

In Rosalind Franklin, I see a model of courage and resilience that all health and biomedical professionals can emulate.
Wendy Rheault

Dr. Franklin’s work on the structure of DNA has had far-reaching effects. It made possible the field of genomics, which is the future of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. It is shifting the healthcare paradigm to focus on health promotion and wellness. In the near future, DNA sequencing and whole-genome sequencing will help us tailor lifestyle medicine and treatment plans based on our unique genetic makeup. Her science and her example will continue to reach into the future to help us build new models of health, of care, and to inspire future generations of scientists and health professionals.

Izalia Ruiz, Pre-matriculation Program

Dr. Rosalind Franklin has inspired me to find the joy in learning and to keep moving forward with my goals even when things are difficult.  It appears that her motivation to keep learning is what led her to her discovery. The creation of Photograph 51 has encouraged me to change my approach – to find something I am passionate about that will encourage me to stay focused and make learning fun.

Eugene Saltzberg, MD ’72
Assistant Professor and Learning Community Mentor
Chicago Medical School 

Dr. Rosalind Franklin has inspired me to be a doctor who passionately cares for his patients in a manner that improves their quality of life, and empowers them to live a healthy lifestyle. Her work on the creation of Photograph 51 has encouraged my resilience to be the best doctor I can be, and carry on in the Emergency Department in what are often dire circumstances. Dr. Franklin must have been so disappointed to see Watson and Crick use her dedication and research, and then gain prominence in their field, but not recognize the important work that she did to contribute. Yet, she carried on in her work professionally.

In a large university, role models are often difficult to find and cultivate. However, the unique size and culture of Rosalind Franklin University enables one to find that inspiration and compassion a student needs to connect to a role model.

Her work on the creation of Photograph 51 has encouraged my resilience to be the best doctor I can be
Eugene Saltzberg

As a student of the Class of 1972, I chose CMS due to its class size of 82 and passionate involvement of the faculty. All my life I have desired to be in a position to give back to the school that created, for me, such a wonderful opportunity to fulfill my life's goals. Today I am honored and humbled by being able to contribute as a faculty member. I truly believe, and always have, that RFU and CMS are in the "business" of creating heroes!