Jessica Briones: Keller Pathway Fellowship Alumna
An all-natural alternative to steroid-based topical treatments to treat skin inflammation and irritation
Note: This interview was conducted in fall 2018. Jessica Briones was a Keller Pathway Fellows in 2018/19.
Jessica Briones is an undergraduate student working toward a B.S. in biological sciences. She has placed on the Dean’s List since spring 2017.
An aspiring young researcher, Briones has gained extensive experience working in various labs at San Francisco’s VA Medical Center, UCSF’s Helen Diller Cancer Center and UC Davis’ Department of Pharmacology. She is currently investigating novel functions of neural proteins, SynDIG1/4, with the Diaz Lab. Briones is interested in integrating the science of research with the social aspect of healthcare, and hopes to use her experience in biotechnology companies in the future. Following graduation, she plans to work in industry and then continue her journey towards a Ph.D.
In a nutshell, describe your project or venture.
I am interested in developing an all-natural topical for people suffering with skin inflammation and irritation. I hope to provide an alternative to current steroid-based treatments.
What’s important about your research or project—and where do you hope to take it?
As someone who has suffered with chronic eczema since childhood, I have built a tolerance to my many steroid-based prescriptions. After developing an appreciation, awareness and mindfulness for the things I put into and onto my body, I am now trying to live a more natural lifestyle. I’ve always wished for someone to develop a natural topical alternative for my skin problem, and that wish gave birth to my current project. I hope that my project enables me to change the lives of others who are suffering from similar skin conditions as well.
What are you most passionate about in your work?
Steroid-based skin treatments are paradoxical because they only briefly alleviate the symptoms of a chronic, lifelong condition. I truly believe that current treatments for chronic skin conditions should lean toward a more natural therapeutic approach—especially if treatment will be put it in/on your body for the rest of your life. Minimizing potential side effects of topical steroids would benefit everyone’s health in the long-run.
What was the most important thing you learned at the Entrepreneurship Academy?
Commitment. No one is going to believe in your project more than you will. Many people can come up with a solution that solves a real-world problem, but not everyone will commit to their idea and pursue it. Once you find the passion for your project, believe in yourself and be willing to throw your entire self into the pursuit of your idea. Only after you commit and believe will the cloud of doubts and uncertainties clear to make the end goal seem not that far after all.
What is the most unexpected advice you received from a mentor?
Do not give up on a project just because it seems difficult or out of your comfort zone. Nothing great will come without personal sacrifice, and there is no great reward without risk. So take a chance and be prepared to take on any challenges that come your way.
Do you have a project/venture in mind for the Big Bang! Business Competition? How do you expect participation in the Big Bang! workshops and competition to help you as an aspiring entrepreneur?
Participating in the Big Bang! workshop has helped me meet other people who are at the same stage that I am in with my project. It is nice to be surrounded by such positive energy and by entrepreneurs who are bound to change the world. Attending the workshops, networking with others and hearing a variety of ideas is such a humbling experience. It is reassuring to know that I am part of a community of people who are supportive of each other’s ideas, goals and projects.
I have come to realize the significance of women empowering other women in the sciences, business and any other field.
The Keller Pathway Fellowship Program specifically supports women, cross-disciplinary researchers and other underrepresented university-based entrepreneurs. Do you have any insight, experience or concern you’d like to share?
I am so grateful to be part of a cohort of talented women who strive to better the world with their research and experience. Despite being the youngest one in the program, I have come to realize the significance of women empowering other women in the sciences, business and any other field. If it were not for the other Keller Fellows who have opened their hearts and offered me guidance and life advice, I would not have realized the importance of having a strong support system of sisters.
I feel like my network was very limited before I was accepted as a Keller Fellow. My biggest concern for other young women scientists/entrepreneurs would be their opportunity to network outside of their conventional niche. UC Mentors and the Entrepreneurship Academy have allowed me to network with mentors and to gain perspective from beyond the scientist-like mindset that I am accustomed to.
How will your experiences as a Keller Pathway Fellow help you to change the world?
The fellowship has helped me gain confidence in my capabilities as both a scientist and a businesswoman. I believe that I have so much more potential to uncover within myself, and my experiences as a Keller Pathway Fellow will help me manifest my abilities into something tangible—whether it be through research or business or both—so that I can share it with the world.