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November 2, 2021

Meet Enventure’s Newest Executive Director

Join us in welcoming Enventure's first full-time Executive Director, Jeanne Manalo, PhD. Jeanne has been involved in Enventure since 2019 as Project Manager and Insights Director. We are very much looking forward to growing under Jeanne’s leadership - get to know our Executive Director today!
Jeanne Manalo, PhD
  1. Describe to our readers how you made the decision to focus your studies on neuroscience?

Neuroscience has always been something I was interested in because I really wanted to understand the misunderstood, whether it be a psychiatric disorder or the brain itself. Initially, I wanted to better understand my cousin who has Asperger’s Syndrome, so much so that I raised money for a support group in Sugar Land where I joined weekly meetings talking to family members and individuals who have this disability. In my 3rd year of my undergraduate studies, I eventually had the opportunity to research as a S.M.A.R.T. student at Baylor College of Medicine in a lab dedicated to studying astrocytes where I also eventually worked as a lab manager. In graduate school, I worked on an incurable disability called sensorineural hearing loss and discovered a potential pre-clinical therapeutic target. I also worked on other disease models, such as Alzheimer's disease and sickle cell anemia that involves multi-organ dysfunctions. Finally, my postdoctoral studies were dedicated to researching and developing pre-clinical drugs and a medical device for DIPG and glioblastoma multiforme patients. One can study many aspects of the brain and it never truly ceases to amaze me!

  1. How did your friends or family react?

My parents saw early on that I was going to study the brain or the mind as they witnessed me reading and analyzing the book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, marveling over Oliver Sacks’ nonfiction The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, and being in awe by Santiago Ramon y Cajal, an amazing artist and scientist. They were not surprised, they were supportive. Overall, they mostly cared that I was happy. My parents stay supportive, especially my mom, who works at an elementary school with predominantly minority students. Every year, she invites me to give a scientific demonstration or career talk to her impressionable students. It is imperative to me to open the doors of STEM to future generations, whether it be in my own home to my niece and nephews, students, or to future fellows of Enventure.

  1. What were goals you had for your career 5 years ago, and how have they changed?

My goal 5 years ago is completely different from my current journey! 5 years ago, I started my Ph.D. journey with a career in academia in mind. I was eager to start my program, publish, collaborate, and feel proud of discovering something new that could be potentially helpful to mankind. I had a pretty challenging, albeit short, Ph.D. journey but I did not let it discourage me from continuing on with a postdoctoral position. However, it was during my postdoc position that I discovered that I would rather help these discoveries be brought to market. I was incredibly frustrated at how slow lab research can be, however, I am aware that I am giving up the prestige and privileges of being in the ivory tower of academia. I had to be okay with that. I don’t have a dream job, but I am sure that I want to have a career that is in the forefront of breakthroughs. I would like to use my talents and skills in such a way, and so far, Enventure has offered that opportunity to me. If you are a Ph.D. student (or MD, MBA, postdoc, young professional), I would like for you to think about these two things: 1) Your calling is (usually) where your passion meets the world’s needs. 2) If you are unsure of your journey, let Enventure be a part of your seeking and we can explore together. Start with joining our community events or apply as an ENRICH fellow!

  1. Tell us the biggest reason you decided to join Enventure.

I have always been impressed with Enventure, especially by the people who were in leadership before me who have paved the way for us to continue to do meaningful work. I joined Enventure at the tail end of my Ph.D. because I finally had the bandwidth to help fill gaps and make an impact. Being raised in Houston, I wanted a space where I could contribute to growing the city’s biotech ecosystem. I love that Enventure welcomes advanced degree candidates and young professionals to be creative and take ideas from start to finish. I also saw how previous and current leadership at the time worked well together, so I figured I’d want to be part of that awesome team!

  1. Describe a time you surprised or impressed yourself.

I honestly did not think I would have the confidence to lead business development efforts in Enventure. It is such a huge undertaking to make sure that revenue-generating programs, like ENRICH, will continue to grow during my term. It still makes me nervous from time to time, to be honest. However, what really gives me confidence is the team alongside me and the network we surround ourselves with. We have amazing friends and advisors in the Texas Medical Center community.

  1. Looking back, what was an unknown part of your journey that you want someone else to know about.

I am still very early in my career, but I would like to really emphasize mustering courage to try new possibilities and explore horizons. As an international student, I was faced with many barriers, such as limited scholarship and internship opportunities. However, these barriers seem to be futile once I have made alternative opportunities for myself, such as founding a science communication organization during my Ph.D., volunteering in setting up events at bars and social spaces for scientists to connect with the community, or simply finding a community such as Enventure who welcomes individuals from all walks of life. 

  1. What is it like being a woman of color in science?

Honestly, my experience as an immigrant woman in science has not been easy. Transitioning from growing up in Alief, an area in Houston that was predominantly black and hispanic to researching in academia with less people of color and more people who had the privilege to a better STEM education was quite a shock. I was either told to have a more aggressive disposition because I am a “small, Asian girl” to earn respect from colleagues or to work ridiculously long hours because “that’s what immigrants do” to earn respect from others. However, I do acknowledge that academia is, in general, becoming more inclusive. Enventure wants to be more inclusive as well through our program, Catalyze, where we offer pro bono services to women or BIPOC entrepreneurs. I want to continue in this direction in my career, where inclusivity is a top priority, wherever it takes me.

  1. What impact do you set out to make as our newest Executive Director?

I have 3 major goals for Enventure: 1) creating more long-standing partnerships and diversifying our portfolio of clients, whether it be reaching out to more female entrepreneurs, people of color, or including femtech companies. 2) having our SA branch be more integrated in our programming and vice versa for continued growth and maximum effort towards educational programming and broadening our network and financial resources. 3) continue to build on the solid foundation laid before us to empower the next chapter of leaders to make Enventure their own.  I hope to  accomplish all these goals, or at least set up the next breed of Enventure talent for a brighter future.

  1. What would you say to someone considering joining the Enventure community?

“Come on in! The water’s fine!” We will find your place in Enventure, where you can make an impact. When I have the privilege of interviewing new recruits, I often ask them what their career goals are so we can properly align tasks to develop the skills they will need for the future. We try to take care of our fellows, but we also try to keep them on their toes!

  1. What do you want to share with someone following in your footsteps?

I would tell them to pave their own path and own every step they take, whether it be a step forward or a step backwards. The best one can offer is their unique talents and authentic self.