Bachelor’s degree candidate Manuella Djomaleu and doctoral degree candidate Simona Patange will be the student speakers for the University of Maryland’s College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences May 2020 Commencement Celebration. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration will be pre-recorded and available for viewing after 2 p.m. on May 22, 2020 at commencement.umd.edu.
Born and raised in Cameroon, Djomaleu comes from a family that values education and service. She moved to the United States when she was nine years old and relocated to Rockville, Maryland. In the U.S., Djomaleu took advantage of every opportunity she could.
Djomaleu was introduced to medicine as a career when she volunteered at Washington Adventist Hospital. She later worked as a medical assistant at Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Center. Her work as a research assistant at the University of Maryland Prince George’s Hospital Center further increased her interest in medicine.
At UMD, Djomaleu was actively engaged in community service, serving as a coordinator for Terps for Change and participating in two Alternative Breaks. Djomaleu’s service experience also informed her decision to pursue a career in medicine.
She has been involved in research through the BioFIRE (First-year Innovation and Research Experience) program and with faculty members on campus. Djomaleu was awarded a BioFIRE Summer Fellowship grant to continue her research on identifying the presence of frameshifting signals in the human genome. She then turned her focus to teaching and mentoring by serving as a tutor for the BioFIRE program; a resident assistant in Elkton Hall; a peer mentor for the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences; and a teaching assistant for BSCI 440: Mammalian Physiology.
Djomaleu will attend the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in the fall. As the first physician in her family, she is excited about embarking on this journey to learn how she can be an advocate, activist and clinician for black, brown, and indigenous communities across the world.
Patange will be graduating with a Ph.D. in biophysics. She came to UMD in 2013 after earning bachelor’s degrees in molecular biology and psychology from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.
Her dissertation advisors were Michelle Girvan from UMD’s Department of Physics and Daniel Larson and David Levens from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute (NCI). Patange received competitive fellowships from the NCI-UMD Partnership for Integrative Cancer Research and COMBINE: Computation and Mathematics for Biological Networks.
For her dissertation, Patange used optogenetic engineering to control the MYC cancer gene with light. She combined this tool with single-molecule fluorescence microscopy methods to obtain the first real-time observations of how MYC affects gene expression events in living human cells. These measurements shed light on how MYC may promote cancer by functioning as a global amplifier of gene expression heterogeneity. She will be submitting this work for publication. Additionally, she has published a first-author review paper and co-authored two peer-reviewed journal articles.
Outside of the lab, Patange served as a docent for the Smithsonian exhibit “Genome: Unlocking Life’s Code” at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. In addition, she participates in research studies at the NIH Clinical Center through the NIMH Healthy Research Volunteer Program. In 2019, Patange visited the Maryland State House in Annapolis on behalf of the Biophysical Society, where she met with legislators to discuss the importance of funding scientific research and the impact it has on the state economy.
After graduation, Patange will begin an appointment at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) through the NIST Postdoctoral Research Associateships Program, which is administered in cooperation with the National Academies/National Research Council.
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 9,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $175 million.