Road to Graduation: The life of a budding scientistBy Melanie Stawicki Azam
Published: May 13th, 2013 • Category: Lead Story
Eva Vertes has been involved in neuroscience and cancer research since she was 14 years old.
But the UF College of Medicine class of 2013 graduate, who grew up in Toronto, Canada, is looking forward to taking her passion for discovery to the next level as a physician.
“Cancer is an extremely complex disease, and we still know so little about it,” Vertes said. “We have therapies, but no cure.”
Vertes will be starting a pathology residency at UF Gainesville in July, where she hopes to eventually focus on studying blood cancers and how cancer metastasizes.
“Cancer metastasis is an especially fascinating area of cancer research to me, because much remains to be understood about this process and it may hold the key to potentially curative therapies,” she said.
Vertes’ drive to explore the unknown evolved at a young age. She got turned on to science at age 9, after reading the book “The Hot Zone” which is about an Ebola virus outbreak.
She was born and raised in Toronto, but her maternal grandparents, who were both Holocaust survivors, fled communist Hungary in 1956 and immigrated to Canada. Vertes is named after her grandmother Eva, who was a scientist in a biochemistry lab at the University of Toronto and died of cancer at the age 44.
When Vertes was 14, she became involved in neuroscience research at McMaster University in
Hamilton, Ontario, and spent her last year of high school working in Italy on Alzheimer’s disease research.
She was profiled on the PBS web video series and site, “The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers,” when she was 23 years old for her cancer research. When Vertes was 19, she gave a talk on studying medicine and her cancer research for TED, which is a global organization that specializes in both conferences and online inspirational talks.
While studying molecular biology as an undergraduate at Princeton University, Vertes worked in a cancer stem cell lab at Stanford University for a summer. Despite her interest in neuroscience, cancer research captured her attention.
“That’s when I was hooked,” she said. “It was fascinating.”
After graduation, she spent two years working in cancer research at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. But she realized she needed her medical degree to do research with clinical applications. One of her colleagues was a UF alumnus and encouraged her to apply to the UF College of Medicine.
“So I applied. And, when I came to interview here, I just loved it,” Vertes said. “I felt it was a very supportive environment and I know that is what I thrive in.”
Over the past four years, she has flourished both professionally and personally at UF. While in medical school, she also met Gainesville attorney Evan George, whom she married in June 2012.
The couple is expecting their first child, a daughter whom they plan to name Evelyn after George’s grandmother, in August.
Vertes said she is looking forward to tackling both residency and motherhood in a few months and glad she will be at UF.
“They have a great pathology program here. It is an excellent place to train, and they also understand, and encourage, having a healthy work-life balance,” she said.
“I’m nervous in the sense that it’s going to be a handful, but I think it’s a challenge I can meet.”