A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Answering Research Questions that Matter

By Mason Spirit contributor on June 21, 2022


Mason research professor Ginny Espina stands in a lab talking to a student who is seated at a lab station.

Ginny Espina (on the left) is a research professor at the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine. Photo by Evan Cantwell

For as long as she can remember, VirginiaGinny” Espina, PhD Biosciences ’13, has been captivated by science, a passion largely driven by her inquisitive nature.

“I’ve always asked questions,” says Espina. “Why? Is there a better way? How can I take what I already know and make a difference in the world?”

That same curiosity drives her in her research. “My laboratory philosophy toward research is ‘why, what if, and just try it,'” she says.

One does not have to look very hard to spot the differences she has made—Espina’s career is packed with accomplishments. A research professor at Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine, Espina founded the CAP/CLIA-accredited clinical proteomics laboratory for clinical trials, where she serves as technical director and manager. Espina also holds multiple patents with several colleagues from Mason.

Espina has been instrumental to Mason’s efforts to keep the university community safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2020, Espina and her team pivoted to concentrate their research on COVID. In less than six weeks, they were able to develop and verify a saliva-based COVID diagnostic test that is currently being used at Mason. Espina also assisted in the creation of a COVID antibody test that monitors vaccine and virus responses.

“Being part of the effort to fight the pandemic was exciting, but anxiety-producing,” says Espina. “However, we can now use what we learned for future infectious disease outbreaks and for our research platform in general.”

When not in the lab, Espina enjoys getting her family actively involved in science, from asking them to provide saliva samples for quality control to brainstorming ideas with her children for their science fair projects. Her interactions with her family have led to one of her defining moments as a scientist: the realization that she needed to be able to translate her research to make it accessible to the everyday person.

“As I explained my work to [my children], it dawned on me that being able to communicate your findings is what research is all about,” says Espina. “Success in research is the ability to describe what you do to many people.”

While Espina aims to leave a body of work for other researchers to build upon, her ultimate goal is to kindle a love for science in those that she mentors.

“I want to instill a sense of curiosity and wonderment about the world,” says Espina. “Take that leap, be bold enough to just try something, and never be afraid to ask, ‘What if?’”

—Katie Maney


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