Celia Sepulveda joined Micronoma formally in April of 2022 as the Corporate Communications Director, though she has been working with Micronoma as a consultant from the announced launch in fall of 2020. Born in Santa Rosa, California and raised in New Jersey, she has lived in San Diego for the last 18 years. She received her B.A. in Social Sciences from UC Irvine, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arizona. She is responsible for the strategic direction of communications for Micronoma.
Celia spoke with us to provide some insight into her work and path to Micronoma.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I work for Micronoma half time at the moment, so I pack my days pretty tightly to get a handle on all the areas I touch. I start the day looking at reporter requests and science news, particularly in cancer innovation, microbiome research, and liquid biopsy. I then either edit blogs or social media posts, draft a press release, or help with storyboards or content flow of videos, social media or graphic elements from our contractors. I work closely with Sandrine and Todd on our marketing and commercialization roadmap. Throughout the day, I pause. I have a mindful meditation practice, and I interrupt myself several times a day to check in, get quiet, and breathe. Even if it is just a few minutes, it helps me feel refreshed and rooted in the work I do from a larger perspective.
Tell us about your educational background and previous work.
I have a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Irvine in Social Sciences, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Higher Education Administration. It is a strange graduate degree, but in my early career I wanted to learn how to run a college or university. I worked in the university setting for a while, and ran an award-winning program that promoted the most interesting research in various fields as a way of engaging the general public. It was a lunchtime lecture series and I didn’t know it at the time but it was a precursor to the work I do now: promote brilliant minds and translate research into layman’s terms to excite and inspire all that is possible. I jumped academic ship after that and worked as a federally licensed financial advisor, wrote a cookbook with my award-winning chef cousin, Domenica Catelli, and ran PR for a boutique agency in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where I did a two year stint as Venus Williams’ PR agent for Jamba Juice (she was a spokesperson at the time). In my communications company, I have had the privilege of working with such various projects as an inventor of a direct-out-of-the-barrel wine device, a NASA contest sending student projects on rockets, a guided imagery program for veterans, and synthetically made human collagen beauty products.
Did anyone inspire you along the way? Tell us about them.
So many people. I’ll say my mom first since she helped shape my work ethic. She was a single mom, and I grew up watching her work three jobs, get herself a college degree and later in life achieve pretty incredible goals as an artist and business woman. However, it is easy in this day and age to be driven by stress-inducing goals so I tend to gravitate toward the leaders that have wisdom, a deep inner confidence, and also –importantly!!–playfulness and joy. I also am obsessed with a good writer; like Rumi, an ancient mystic, to get my mind to think differently.
What led you to working at Micronoma?
I had been fascinated by Rob Knight’s work for years, and living in San Diego I attended as many of his public speaking engagements as possible. We met and worked together on a few small events and soon after, he introduced me to Sandrine who was working at UC San Diego, Center for Microbiome Innovation at the time. Sandrine and I co-presented at a Women of Social Impact event on gut microbiome and healthy eating. We worked really well together and were even told we should take our show on the road! When Sandrine told me about starting Micronoma, I viscerally felt the excitement of communicating this incredible innovation with the world, and I jumped at the chance. Scientists are solving some of our world’s most pressing problems, and to be the one that helps communicate what we do effectively is an absolute joyful challenge.
How has cancer personally impacted you?
Most recently one of my closest friends was diagnosed with a rare facial nerve cancer. The speed in which it progressed from diagnosis to invasive surgery, to radiation, to dealing with the reality of life-long pain management, rocked our community. It was all consuming, and we were immersed in everything from doctors appointments to mental health checks to food delivery to financial assistance. Working with a company that focuses on early-stage diagnosis means we can have positive rippling effects that reach all the way into communities.
What’s your favorite part about working at Micronoma?
Probably our weekly staff meetings. I learn and laugh so much- there is such brilliance and humor. This is a hard working, smart group, full of heart, but we know how to have fun— and eat delicious food together!
What gets you most excited about the company’s future?
I can see the tremendous impact we can make–not only in diagnostics. With our team’s microbiome knowledge, inventive approach, international relationships, and new tools for the field, the sky’s the limit!! It is so exciting to be able to say I knew us when….
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
I believe we will be the go-to standard for lung cancer diagnoses and at the same time, other cancer diagnostic assays in our pipeline will be in progress, since we are broadening our menu of cancer diagnostic solutions. I will be the one who helps the world know about our milestones, inspire other scientists to join in the conversation, and attract the supporters, investors, collaborators and news outlets who see the importance of supporting and sharing cancer innovations and giving hope to their communities. Cancer has touched so many of our lives. I hope to be part of spreading good news about the brilliant science, the early adopters, the visionary investors and the many entities that supported us to bring this invention into common practice.
What are your hidden talents or hobbies?
My family is quite creative and accomplished so using the word ‘talent’ is difficult–but, I will say this: I get the closest parking place every time. No matter what. It’s quite incredible and I’m revered in my family (especially my husband) for this gift. As far as hobbies, I’m an ocean girl and love to swim, snorkel and meditate by the beach. I collect various depictions of octopuses: paintings, sculptures, etc.. I love love love the shape and movement of these sea creatures.