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Q&A: Cindy Miranti

February 23, 2016
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Cindy Miranti
Cindy Miranti. Courtesy Van Andel Research Institute

Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.

Cindy Miranti joined the Van Andel Research Institute in 2000.

She’s an associate professor and principal investigator in the Program in Skeletal Disease and Tumor Microenvironment in the institute’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology and the Van Andel Institute Graduate School and chair of the Women in Science Education, Engineering and Research program, or WISER, at VARI.

She’s also an adjunct professor at Michigan State University.

Miranti received her B.A. in microbiology from Southern Illinois University and her M.S. in microbiology from Colorado State University.

Her Ph.D. is in biochemistry from Harvard Medical School, and she conducted her postdoctoral training at ARIAD Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School.

Biggest career break?

Getting into Harvard Medical School for my Ph.D. training. I was amazed I was accepted and leaped at the chance, even though it meant uprooting and moving to a city and a culture I knew nothing about. It was the most challenging time of my life, but the lessons learned were very important and firmly set me on a tract of a lifetime of scientific research. Today, whenever I waiver or get frustrated, I use the strategies I developed in graduate school to set me on the right path.

Proudest moment?

I have two. The first was when two of the graduate students I was training nominated me for the MSU Outstanding Graduate Academic Advisor Award, and I was actually selected. I had no idea they had submitted my name or that they felt I was such an important influence in their lives.

The second was when I received superlative comments on a grant proposal that I submitted for funding. In the competitive world of scientific research, where criticism is rampant and little effort is put into complimenting ideas and accomplishments, to have impressed someone with my ideas enough to receive such a glowing endorsement was highly encouraging.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Focus on your work and don’t get distracted by the politics.

How did you make your first dollar?

Babysitting the neighbor kids

Most-treasured possession?

I have to put this in the context of my house burning to the ground. What would I rescue after my pets? The family photos and family tree history. Unfortunately, I don’t have all this in the cloud yet — my retirement project.

Dream job?

I have my dream job, just wish it were more dreamy . . .

If I were the president, I would . . . ?

Institute a Tolerance and Culture Diversity policy. The root of all evil in the world is our inability to understand how other people perceive the world. This is driven by a lack of experience and exposure to different kinds of people and culture. Walk in another person’s shoes for a day, and it will greatly change your perspective.

Last book you’ve read?

“The Emperor of All Maladies” by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. This book details the history of cancer research, really highlighting the extensive research effort driven by basic and clinical research scientists that is required to “cure” a disease. It also highlights how insidious cancer is and why we are still struggling to control this disease and the need to continue the battle. I’ve been a part of this battle for the last 30 years, so it speaks to me on many levels.

Last thing you Googled?

A competitor’s website to see what they are up to.

Your worst habit?

Collecting Legos. The engineering that goes into creating so many possibilities fascinates me, but one can have too many.

Not keeping my mouth shut when I should.

To unwind, I like to . . . ?

Knit, crochet or needlework. Not only is it relaxing, these activities fuel my need for creativity as well as the pattern recognition/logic and bringing of order to my world.

Dream vacation?

Sunny beach near the equator with my Kindle

Favorite food?

Sprinkle fresh cilantro on any dish, and I will love it!

Person you most admire?

John Lennon, Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., James Garfield — and all those who tried to change the world for the better and became martyrs for their cause. I don’t know that I would have the courage to put my life at stake for my beliefs. 

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