A Conversation with Dr. Diane Ramos

By | March 7, 2023
Diane Ramos

Diane Ramos

We sat down with Dr. Diane Ramos, the chair of the Natural Science department and the Undergraduate director of the Cytotechnology program, to talk about what she loves most about teaching in her department and to explain what Cytotechnology is and how it is changing the scope of cancer treatment.

What do you teach at Daemen?

I teach the biology of little things such as cells and molecules which lead me into working with the Cytology program. I also teach Evolutionary Biology, which is the capstone course for most of the Biology majors. In addition to that, I teach Molecular Biology which is the capstone biology course for the Biochemistry majors. I have the unique perspective of seeing almost all of the majors in our department which allows me to see all of the amazing things our students are doing.

What is Cytotechnology?

Cytology is a branch of Science that looks at cells and cell structure under microscopes to identify the cells that have become cancerous. They work with Pathologists as part of the pathology suite in hospitals and laboratories. Any sample of cells that is suspected to be cancerous is handed to a cytologist to be prepared and examined. The practice of cytology began with gynecological cancers and has grown to include any cancer that can be investigated with a fine needle aspiration. Cytologists can not only help identify the stages that have happened in the cells but they can send cells out for increasingly sophisticated molecular characterization to identify exactly what mutations have happened in an individual’s tumor. This allows for more targeted chemotherapy to be used which is all part of the dream of personalized medicine.

How are Cytologists changing the scope of cancer treatment?

Let’s say that two individuals have the same cancer but have totally different mutations that cause that cancer and therefore respond differently to treatment. The cytologist is part of the group that identifies the exact changes that have led to that person’s cancer and this allows that person to have chemotherapies that are targeted specifically to those mutations. Because of this, the patient has fewer side effects and it can lead to a more beneficial outcome.

What should prospective students know about the Cytotechnology Program?

One of the advantages of our program is that once you are licensed to work in New York State you can actually work in any state in the country. I always tell students that this is a degree that allows you to have a very movable career. The program at Daemen is a 4 year undergraduate and 1 year masters program that is highly hands-on and apprentice style. In New York state there are only three schools that offer masters degrees in Cytology and we are the only one located in Western New York. We create a really special atmosphere for our students at Daemen. We are a small program that gives personalized attention to each student which allows them to succeed. I always tell students that it is ok to not knock the ball out of the park in your first semester or two and only get B’s or C’s. This doesn’t mean you are a bad science student. You can still be successful in the field even if it takes you a couple semesters to find your footing. The support services we offer are really designed for student success and I would encourage any student to reach out for coaching or tutoring if they need it.

Tell us about the Capstone Research Project

All of our students participate in a Capstone Research Sequence which is an opportunity for them to do actual hands-on research. They identify a faculty mentor and work with them to develop their own research question around their interests. This is different from a lot of undergraduate research opportunities in science which mostly center around labware washing and the other manual labors of a lab. At Daemen, we are doing actual research. To complete the project, the students write a thesis, prepare a poster and deliver a presentation of their research. This is such an advantage for our students when they are interviewing. They are informed, well spoken and the work they complete is really impressive.