When Juan Soto and Betsaida Salom graduated from Bloomfield College they never thought that one day they would be performing research during one of the most dangerous pandemics in U.S. history.
Soto graduated in 2014 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. As a student, he was a New Jersey NASA Space Grant Consortium Research Grant Recipient and a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Research Grant Recipient. Shortly after graduating, Soto was an Adjunct Lab Instructor at Bloomfield College under the direction of Dr. Jim Murphy, Chair of the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics. He then became a Research Technician at the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center(ADARC) and a Flow Cytometry Technician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Salom graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. As a student, she did summer research at the College entitled: "Expression of TNF-, TNFR-1, TNFR-2 Human Breast Cancer Cells," with Dr. Tammy Castro, associate professor of Biology. After graduating, Soto reached out to Salom about opportunities for new graduates and she followed in his footsteps and became a Flow Cytometry Technician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Now, Soto and Salom are Associate Researchers at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, Icahn Institute and Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences. Sitting across from each other in a laboratory, they are both working on fighting COVID-19.
"Juan and Betsy were exceptional students, researchers and peer mentors." It did not surprise Dr. Castro and me when we heard about their roles at Mount Sinai and the research they are working on regarding COVID-19," shared Dr. Jim Murphy.
As associate researchers, Soto has a sequencing related role in the Mount Sinai Health Network Pathogen Surveillance Program and Salom has a library preparation related role in the Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences PacBio Pipeline. With this sequencing data, they can determine the genesis of SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19), detect the presence of the virus in a host, and track mutations in the viral genome. This will contribute to the development of successful therapeutics and even vaccine development. These sequences are published in databases which the scientific community can access globally in efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soto attributes his success in his current position in the Mount Sinai Health Network Pathogen Surveillance Program to Bloomfield College, the faculty and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. "Bloomfield College gave me the foundation I needed to become a Research Technician at ADARC. Getting that research experience was vital and it was through that work experience where I was able to become part of this life-changing program and become a co-author on a number of published papers."