Lauren A. Biwer, PhD, joins the esteemed faculty at Yale School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in the Vascular Biology and Therapeutics Program and the Department of Comparative Medicine. In an engaging chat with Kanika Jain, Associate Research Scientist at the Yale Cardiovascular Research Center, Biwer shares her academic journey and her passion for vascular physiology.Kanika (K): Tell us a little bit about your background. Lauren (L): I was raised in Arizona, surrounded by animals—my parents are both veterinarians. Their love of physiology and pathology in animal medicine deeply influenced my early aspirations of becoming a medical doctor. Pursuing my undergraduate studies at Baylor, I studied sports medicine. A pivotal internship with cardiologists opened my eyes to the mysteries within the realm of medicine, prompting me to explore research. This journey led me to my first job in research in a cardiac-focused lab at the University of Arizona. I found myself not only intrigued, but also thriving under the mentorship of my encouraging mentor Dr. Taben Hale and the great environment. It was during this period that I knew research was my real passion. It was thus a very natural decision to attend graduate school at the University of Virginia in Dr. Brant Isakson's lab, which further fueled my fascination with vascular physiology and its complexities. K: How did you get into your field of research? L: Towards the end of my PhD, a significant personal event occurred – my sister experienced pre-eclampsia during her pregnancy. Despite my interest in blood pressure regulation and vascular physiology, I had never really given much thought to pre-eclampsia. Digging through the literature, I found epidemiological studies showing the increased cardiovascular disease risk following a pre-eclamptic pregnancy. It was around this time that I met my future postdoc mentor Dr. Iris Jaffe, a physician-scientist at Tufts. She had recently published a paper with Dr. Ananth Karumanchi that demonstrated that after pre-eclampsia, mice had exacerbated vascular remodeling in response to injury. Her lab also had several compelling projects that aligned with my new interest in female cardiovascular pathophysiology. Although the preeclampsia research was not initially funded-, I pursued the project while working on a separate funded project and was eventually awarded a K99 for my perseverance! K: Thanks for sharing your personal story with us! Can you tell us about your role as an assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine? L: In my role as an assistant professor, my primary focus involves using blood pressure, vascular physiology, and immunology techniques to understand and develop therapies for female-specific mechanisms of cardiovascular disease. I’m currently studying the predisposition to future hypertension and ischemic vascular disease that occurs after preeclampsia. Looking ahead, I am also be interested in studying other female specific risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as preterm birth, gestational diabetes, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and breast cancer treatment. K: What do you think is the biggest challenge in your field? L: The most glaring challenge in our field, despite evident progress, persists in the striking scarcity of research involving females, even in the current research landscape of 2023. When I first started in 2009, the use of male rats and mice was the norm, due to the pretext that females have complex reproductive cycles and it is more cost effective to study one sex. Even though NIH grant guidelines and many journals advocate for inclusion of males and females, this trend continues. The other side of the coin is that despite the requirement for both basic scientists and clinicians to explore both sexes in their studies, a considerable gap remains due to the lack of adequate training for conducting such inclusive research. Consequently, many studies suffer from insufficient statistical power to discern sex-based differences or inadvertently overlook sex-dependent phenotypes by pooling data from males and females for analysis.I strongly believe that a meticulous consideration of sex and gender as fundamental biological variables in research is required and needs to be incorporated carefully across various contexts.Lauren Biwer K: What drew you to Yale? L: The opportunity at Yale felt like a natural fit for me. It was fortuitous that the job advertisement for the Vascular Biology and Therapeutics (VBT) was posted at the exact time I was looking for a job and there were so many Yale professors with expertise that could help my potential research program. My in-person interview really sealed the deal. Over the course of two days, I engaged with a diverse community of individuals who were full of great advice, so passionate about their work, and equally excited about my expertise in blood pressure and vascular physiology. Many of the conversations led to “Oh, you should really talk to this person…” which led to more great conversations even after I returned to Boston post-interview. I was warmly welcomed, and the prospect of natural collaborations—both how I could contribute and benefit—really solidified my decision. K: What excites you most about being in academia? L: There is always something to do, it varies depending on the day, and most of it is pretty fun! This includes training the next generation of scientists, learning about the research plans or progress of colleagues and collaborators, planning experiments, doing the experiments (most of the time!), data analysis, writing, refining presentations, and coming up with collaborations. Maybe it’s because I’m still junior, but I even enjoy meetings—there are so many different types and I get to know about the exciting new findings in different fields of research! K: Great! As a new PI, what guiding principle or catchphrase would define your approach? L: I firmly believe in the mantra, “A little progress each day adds up to big results.” Simply put, it is important to just show up every day and put in the work. While hard work is immensely valuable, combining it with creativity can save time and energy, offering more efficient solutions. It’s definitely a principle that I’m still trying to optimize; the ability to prioritize creative problem-solving over relying solely on sheer effort. There's usually more than one path to achieving a goal, why not try to figure out the most efficient way? K: That is an excellent mantra! What advice would you give to students and trainees interested in pursuing a career like yours? L: For anyone looking to pursue a similar career path, my advice is to be fully committed, and plan far in advance towards that commitment. Don't spend too much time thinking about a backup plan—rather, carefully consider what truly drives your aspirations and go confidently in that direction. To succeed, persistence is key. As an example, from my own academic journey, I faced initial success with grants during my PhD but experienced failures in the majority of my postdoc fellowship applications. It's about learning from your mistakes while continually striving forward. K: What gets you up in the morning? L: Coffee, 1000 percent! K: What's your go-to "brain-break" activity during a hectic day? L: Taking a deep breath has become my go-to move for centering myself, whether I'm feeling overwhelmed, ecstatic, or just need a reset. It's a simple trick that works wonders to keep me grounded. K: What do you enjoy outside of work? L: Beyond the lab, I have a deep curiosity about the world—especially its people, places, and cultures. I find joy in learning and trying new things, whether it's exploring different cuisines, non-fiction books, traveling, modern art, or attending to my 7 orchids. Bravo reality shows are my guilty pleasure. I have a slight college sports obsession (my alma maters have had some recent championship success in basketball: 2019 Baylor women’s team, 2019 Virginia men’s team, 2021 Baylor men’s team). Obviously now, I've been getting into Yale sports; the 2023 Yale-Harvard football game was a great introduction!