Julia Lamenzo Fox ’93 spends her days on biomedical research work that didn’t exist when she was a student, yet she credits Wheaton with helping her get there.
“My curiosity was fostered at Wheaton and I got a foundation in science and research that was so strong I’ve been able to be really versatile in the roles I’ve taken,” she said.
That sense of gratitude has inspired Fox to reach back and help current and future students by supporting research opportunities in the biology department.
A career researcher in health and medicine, Fox currently holds the title scientific data curator for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass. Her job involves organizing and managing experimental results so that researchers are able to access results from work that takes place in labs around the world.
“If you had asked me about this when I was a student, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it,” she said, adding that each step along her path led naturally to the next.
The journey began at Wheaton, where Fox held a position as a work-study assistant for Professor of Biology Betsey Dexter Dyer ’75. She also conducted an independent research project in Dyer’s lab. Her first publication credit in a scientific journal came from work done at Wheaton.
After graduation, Fox spent a year as a research assistant at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico before beginning graduate studies at Brown University, from which she earned a Ph.D. Since then, she has worked as an investigator in a number of major research labs, including in the Chemical Biology Program at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and at Tufts University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital.
“My career has just evolved organically over time, based on where I’ve been and where those experiences have led me,” said Fox, explaining her transition from working directly in the lab to a management role overseeing the collection and organization of data.
“Fundamentally, the root of my career comes from a very solid science education, biology in particular but definitely chemistry and mathematics. That’s part and parcel with being able to do any of this well,” she said. “I was fortunate to work with professors like Betsey Dyer who really encouraged my curiosity and allowed me to get involved in research.”
Now firmly established in her career, Fox wanted to ensure that other students would have the same opportunity. The gift that she has made to the college will provide funding for students to pursue research in molecular biology over the next two years.
“My real desire came from the fact that I was in a position to do something that would make a difference,” she said. “It’s the opportunity to be involved in research. That by itself is important, especially for anyone who is thinking of having research as any component of their career.”