‘Snake Lady’ now in YWCA’s Hall of Fame

‘Snake Lady’ now in YWCA’s Hall of Fame

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Dr. Elda E. Sanchez

Elda E. Sanchez was attending high school in her hometown of Falfurrias when she realized her love for biology. Instilled in her by her teacher was a joy she got from going on field trips and doing research projects. She said she fell in love with science (specifically biology) and research because she “had an excellent biology teacher.”
So she began her quest in the world of biology at Texas A&M University–Kingsville where she graduated with a degree in biology in 1993, making her the first in her family to attend and graduate from a higher learning institution. While  she was studying biology as an undergraduate, a special opportunity came about, one she would be still be involved with until today.
“They had venom research that was going on and I was asked if I wanted to go into research,” she said.
Sanchez also said that, although she was first looking into teaching biology, in doing research, “it was something that I found I truly enjoyed and I wanted to pursue a career in that.”
Since then she has received a Master’s degree in biology from AMK and a Ph.D. in Toxinology from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (in Caracas, Venezuela).
“I always studied hard. I was always very competitive with my grades when I was very young. I was the valedictorian of my high school. I always studied,” she said. “I was a nerd I guess,” she quickly said as she covered her mouth while letting out a giggle.
Her work in National Natural Toxins Research Center revolves around isolating chemicals in snake venom that have biomedical uses. When she mentions she works with snake venom she said people just start to associate her with snakes and confuse her profession with that of a herpetologist.
She looked up and, attempting to hold in her laughter, she said “The Snake Lady they say, but in actuality we do biomedical research with snake venom.”
These snakes, which actually scare her, have left her with a profound respect for them.
“We shouldn’t fear them. We should be cautious,” she said.
Sanchez is an assistant professor of chemistry and currently also the interim director for the National Natural Toxins Research Center.
In 2010 she began her career as an assistant professor teaching biochemistry. “Having to teach a class was exciting and new,” she said.
This spring Sanchez was nominated and inducted into the YWCA’s Y Women in Careers Hall of Fame.
Her passion for teaching is evident when she speaks about her students.
“I think one of the things that satisfies me the most is working with students, undergraduate students and graduate students and giving them the opportunity to publish and get them excited about what they’re doing,” she said.
When it comes to her accomplishments and breakthroughs even after having more than 50 publications, her favorite experience was teaching Jacob Galan, who was not originally a science major, but decided to pursue science after working with Sanchez.
“He got an undergraduate degree in biology and a master’s in chemistry and he was working here with us. After he got his master’s in chemistry he went and got a biochemistry degree at Purdue,” she said. “We still collaborate. When he was at Purdue, we published several papers together. It’s really rewarding to have your students come back and say, ‘You really made a difference in my life,’ to me, that’s exciting.”
Sanchez added, “As a university, that’s our goal, as an institution, to educate students and motivate [students]. We shouldn’t forget that in the process.”
The mother of two, a daughter, 17, who is interested in journalism, and a son, 15, who wishes to be a veterinarian, encourages everyone to go into something they feel fervor for.
“If you love what you do, it’s not a job, it’s a passion,” she said.

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