NOVA’s Biotech Program Opened a New World to Bruna Mayen, Now She Continues Her Climb to Career Success

February 9, 2024

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, NOVA wants to applaud one of its many success stories! 

When Bruna Mayen came to the United States in 2011 from Brazil, her English was very limited. She never thought she would graduate from NOVA, much less with two degrees: her business administration degree in 2015 and her biotechnology degree in 2018. Now Bruna’s goal is to become a genetic counselor, and NOVA’s Biotechnology program has opened that door for her.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I didn’t go straight to college after high school. When I arrived in the United States, I felt that a college education would set me up for success, but I wasn’t sure which career path to take. I thought a business administration degree would be a good option.

One of the requirements was Biology-101. I was already loving the class when one of my professors asked, “Why don’t you check out the Biotech program?” I did look into the program, even though I was already a year into my business degree. With the help of the professors and counselors, I became a double major. This wasn’t my original plan, but I am so glad I did it! Enrolling in the Biotechnology program was the best decision for me! It gave me the lab skills needed to succeed in the field. I loved learning about all the lab instruments, equipment and techniques used in testing and analysis. My professors gave me more than scientific understanding; they helped me prepare for the real workforce. Also, I learned about many career options during my time in the program. 

What brought you to NOVA?
NOVA is the best place to start if you are still deciding about college and planning a career path. NOVA was such a great starting point for me. It has so much to offer in terms of affordability, availability of campuses in the Northern Virginia area and awesome professors. NOVA is such a great community college that I wish it offered a four-year college degree program!

Can you briefly define biotechnology?
Biotechnology is so amazing, and I love the word itself — biology and technology — two major fields. Biotechnology could help address many global problems, such as food insecurity, infectious diseases and climate change, to name just a few. Many people have asked me, “What is biotech all about?” I explain it in a way so they can relate; for example, if there’s a national food shortage, biotech can help solve this problem by growing crops or helping to increase the size of fish so more people can eat.

What is NOVA’s Biotechnology program like?
In three words, the program is fun, challenging and rewarding. Additionally, I’d say that you don't need a science background; you will learn everything you need to know. The knowledge and skills that I have obtained from the program have set me up for success. I'm so glad I joined the program!

I enjoyed everything I learned, especially the lab skills, which I use the most. One of the requirements for the Biotech program is an internship. What’s interesting is how much I applied my knowledge from my classes to my internship at INOVA Fairfax Hospital. I was a lab technician in the research department and helped prepare samples for genome sequencing. After the internship ended, I was immediately hired there. That was amazing! I stayed on for about two years and learned a lot.

Currently, I am a lab technician at George Mason University, and I’ve been there for almost four years. In my capacity at Mason, as a research coordinator and lab lead, we are contributing to a national NIH study called ECHO. The focus of the study is understanding the effects of environmental exposure on child health and development.

What is your career goal?
I first became fascinated with genetic counseling while taking a biotech class. Then, during my internship, I met several scientists and amazing genetic counselors who inspired me. As a result, I’m now a part-time student at George Mason University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biology on my way to becoming a genetic counselor.

Genetic counseling is an excellent career path that offers high job satisfaction. I am interested in learning how gene changes can cause genetic disorders that can be passed onto children. I can't wait to help families and patients who have or may be at risk for a genetic condition.

I am amazed by the possibilities that my future holds. Through my story and achievements, I hope to inspire others to pursue a career in science.

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