A Conversation with a First-Generation Woman in STEM: International Day of Women & Girls in Science

A Q&A with Juliana Xavier Ferrucio, PhD, Principal Scientist

The United Nations has proclaimed February 11 as International Day of Women and Girls in Science as part of a mission to reinforce that full & equal access to participation in science, technology and innovation for women and girls of all ages is imperative for achieving gender equality and empowerment. In honor of this observance, our very own Juliana Xavier Ferrucio, Principal Scientist, shared her journey to becoming a woman in STEM, and why she is passionate about the work she is doing at Vor Bio. 

When did you first become interested in science? And what was it that sparked your interest in science? Did any particular person or experience inspire you?

Looking back, I was always a very curious kid. No one in my family before me had the chance to go to college, but my grandfather who was a wise farmer and a wonderful person saw this curiosity in me. We would spend hours together exploring, asking, and answering questions, so I deeply believe that he was my major inspiration. I remember the day I saw on TV that scientists had cloned a sheep and I was completely amazed and intrigued. Even though I was still a kid I remember the feeling that this is exactly what I want to pursue as a career! I decided not only that I wanted to be a scientist, but also that I would study stem cells.

Why did you decide to come to America to pursue your post doctorate education?

I was presenting my thesis work during the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting, and Dr. Diane Krause, a professor of laboratory medicine, pathology, and cell biology at Yale University, came to my poster and we started this amazing scientific discussion. Little did I know that I was being “interviewed.” That same day she invited me to join her lab at Yale and I feel extremely privileged to have had her as a mentor and a role model since then.


Juliana, pictured here (center) in 2018 at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting, with two of her mentors, Sara T.O. Saad. Professor of Internal Medicine and Hematology at Unicamp (left) and Dr. Diane Krause, Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Pathology, and Cell Biology at Yale University (right). They came to watch Juliana present during the ASH Plenary Session.

What about Vor Bio’s science made you interested in pursuing a job here?

After deciding as a kid that I wanted to study stem cells, I went to college to pursue my career in science. As a freshman I had an opportunity to join a Hematology lab (again being mentored by a strong woman and a brilliant scientist) and to stay there during undergrad and grad school studying HSC biology and also hematologic malignancies. Then I came to the U.S. and continued to study the same field for my post doctorate. When I heard that there was an HSC company that was developing a new therapy to treat leukemia it was almost a dream come true! I could use my background to help patients in need in the field that I always loved.