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EveryONE: Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf

Note: this is the second of a series of posts in which you’ll get a glimpse into the important work that PLOS ONE authors are performing. Today we’re showcasing Yvonne Fondufe-Mittendorf from the department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, United States of America

What is your area of study?

My work entails understanding how the epigenome is reprogrammed in response to growth signals and environmental cues. Epigenetics is the study of gene regulation without a change in the DNA sequence. Dysregulation of the epigenome is implicated in several diseases including cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and neurodegeneration. Simply, put, epigenetics is the reason why two different cell types in the body with the same genome express different genes.

What first drew you to your field?

I am originally from Cameroon in Africa and had not done science to the level that is being done in the western world. However, that didn’t stop my love for discovery and pursuit of knowledge. My father emboldened his kids to develop their aptitude and not let anything stand in their path to success. Additionally, going to an all girls school shaped my determination and drive for equality. Finally, the late Professor Jonathan Widom (my postdoctoral mentor) showed me the passion in science and the many intriguing ways that epigenetic changes delicately and intricately control our genes to make us who we are and allow our bodies to function well, how we respond to signals (internally and environmentally) and how this control is so tightly regulated, making us normal.

Why do you choose to publish Open Access?

Getting rejections from top tier journals is very frustrating because publication is key to getting your findings known, as well as for obtaining grants. Very frequently, journals will not accept negative results. I find this a bit depressing because a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow who has spent many years working on a hypothesis which turned out to be wrong deserves some credit and credit scientifically is given only through publications. Apart from that, publishing that negative data helps move science forward so that another lab doesn’t spend money and time repeating the same experiments only to come out with negative data.

What drives you in your career in science?

I’m driven by my love for discovery, the search for the unknown, knowledge and how this might lead not only to improving our understanding of biological processes but also in the discovery of biomarkers in diseases and possible development of therapeutics to treat these diseases. Most importantly the support from family, colleagues and friends has been instrumental in my life.

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