Jackie Mendes: 35 years as “part of science” at Yale

Jackie Mendes celebrates 35 years at Yale
Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Space Shuttle Challenger launches its maiden flight and the world’s first mobile phones are introduced to the public. In the White House Rose Garden, President Ronald Reagan signs a bill creating a federal holiday on the third Monday of every January to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A 5.2 earthquake hits New York. The year is 1983 and Jacqueline Mendes begins work in the Genetics Department of Yale University.

Appointments in Pharmacology and Oncology follow, where Sara Rockwell’s guidance helps the staff trainee to learn “how to take care of a lab” - and the importance of getting things just right.

“I began to understand that my work – sterilizing glass, preparing lab samples – was part of a scientific process that leads to new cancer medications and treatments,” reflects Mendes, who this week celebrated her 35th anniversary at Yale.

Mendes has been a part of the scientific process ever since. From cancer research to her work as Laboratory Technician at West Campus, an attention to exacting standards – whether preparing antibiotic plate samples for the latest microbial research or critical research support services like the campus autoclave – has been the hallmark of her career to date. 

“Working with scientists has taught me to be a better scientist,” enthuses Mendes. “I feel part of the science now.”

While rubbing shoulders with people the world over – the sister of Zsa Zsa Gabor once remarked that her lab space looked “too clean” for real science! – Mendes’ philosophy starts with showing kindness to her colleagues. “A simple ‘good morning’ or saying ‘hello’ goes a long way,” she says. “You have to have patience and be encouraging to people. I treat people how I would like to be treated.”

Characterizing over three decades is far from easy, and Mendes chooses to put her work in context.

“I met my husband here. I had three children here. I’ve lived my life here at Yale.”

Colleagues from across Yale University wish Jackie our warmest congratulations on this year’s special milestone.