As the program director in the Diversity, Education, and Outreach office, Gisselle Vélez-Ruiz helps students thrive and advance their careers. In this role, she partners with Broadies to create experiences that foster learning and show students all the great things scientists do. She leads a team that develops and implements programs to increase the number of students, especially those from underrepresented populations, who enter and succeed in STEM fields. Gisselle feels deeply passionate about increasing the participation of historically underrepresented groups in science, in particular first-generation college graduates. A native of Puerto Rico, she has learned first-hand that students cannot overcome the many challenges and frustrations they encounter without a strong support network. Gisselle believes that although mentoring can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, scientists have a responsibility not only to find answers to scientific questions, but also help train and nurture those who come after them.
A scientist by training, Gisselle earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico and a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology at the University of Michigan, before completing a postdoctoral fellowship there in neuroscience. Throughout her training, she participated in outreach and mentoring programs that helped her pay it forward, and she later transitioned from bench research to roles in the STEM education and social justice fields. Although she had never considered living on the East Coast, Gisselle joined the Broad after a friend from graduate school who worked here convinced her to apply. In addition to her work with students here, she participates in various affinity groups, such as Out@Broad, Shades@Broad, and Muslims@Broad, which connect her with Broadies across scientific and administrative areas.
Although she’s not at the bench anymore, Gisselle enjoys attending scientific talks and troubleshooting experiments with her husband, Osvaldo, who is also a scientist. The couple resides in Somerville with their one-year-old baby boy, Sebastián, and the family’s cat, Ollie. In their spare time, they enjoy taking Seba to restaurants, parks, and music and swimming classes. Gisselle’s little one keeps her busy, so her main hobby lately is finding time to sleep, although she loves baking, especially making pastries – in fact, her dream job is to be a pastry chef (or secret agent). When she grows up, she wants to be like Michelle Obama, whose intelligence, empathy, and talent she greatly admires. Gisselle is most proud of not only encouraging the Broad’s amazing and accomplished students, but also supporting her husband, an amazing and smart individual who recently joined Abbvie.