Interview with Jane Johnson, who studies nervous system development at UT Southwestern
After graduating from University of Washington, with a degree in Chemistry, Jane Johnson continued her studies with a PhD in Biochemistry at the same University. She then moved south, from Seattle to Pasadena, to embrace a postdoctoral position at the California Institute of Technology studying neural development. It was there where she discovered Ascl1, an essential transcription factor in nervous system development that plays a key role in the research of her laboratory. Johnson joined UT Southwestern in 1992, where she is currently a Professor and Vice-Chair in the Department of Neuroscience, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, and holds the Shirley and William S. McIntyre Distinguished Chair in Neuroscience.
“If you cannot explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself” –Albert Einstein
We, as scientists, spend a lot of time and effort on our experiments. However, we don’t spend much time as we should be in communicating our science. As an attempt to reconcile this, I grabbed one of the only seats left at the generously populated CoNNECT seminar series. The CoNNECT (Cultivating Narrative for Effective Communication) program is a pilot course in science communication for UTSW trainees. The goal of the program is to teach biomedical trainees to clearly explain their work and its significance through narrative, or storytelling. This seminar was on “How to design an effective talk” by Dr. Shannon Behrman, Associate Director of Scientific Training and Education at iBiology. Based at University of California, San Francisco, iBiology is a nonprofit organization that produces free videos and online courses about life science research.
“He is very young for his job as the editor-in-chief of American Scientist magazine, intelligent and opportunist. You must meet him!” – Dr. Beth Schachter described Jamie Vernon to me as I was showing off Dale Chihuly’s glass sculpture to her in UT Southwestern’s NC building. I have known Beth for more than two years now and I certainly value her advice. So the moment I saw Jamie Vernon was giving a talk on “Understanding the audience” as part of Ashley Lakduk’s CoNNECT seminar series at UT Southwestern, I made a mental note to cover his talk.
Interview with Ann Stowe, who studies the neuroimmune mechanisms underlying stroke recovery at UT Southwestern
With PhD in Molecular & Integrative Physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Ann Stowe embraced translational research by pursuing postdoctoral training in a one-year clinical trial at the Landon Center on Aging, at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She then moved to Washington University in St. Louis to continue postdoctoral training in neurophysiology. Stowe joined UT Southwestern in 2010, where she is currently Assistant Professor in the Neurology & Neurotherapeutics Department. Stowe is invested in Science communication and Policy.
After finishing my 6 years of postdoctoral training in Internal Medicine here at UT Southwestern, I was at a crossroads. My next step initially began as a research scientist, yet I was still unsure whether to pursue this career.
As a child I was very fascinated by the research my dad did as an endocrinologist. His work taught me that scientific research is of critical importance when trying to understand and treat a disease. As a basic scientist I have always loved my job and enjoyed doing research. A basic scientist tries to answer fundamental questions of biology and that often translates to how a disease impacts a living organism. By validating the underlying mechanism, one could possibly find a cure for a specific disease. I had many colleagues that worked directly with patients every day to save lives. I on the other hand, worked on genes involved in cellular pathways of a disease and was often questioned by friends and family if that would ever have an impact in medical field. I would simply explain that, “Basic science is the foundation for clinical research. Treating patients directly is more like building a house on that foundation.” In the absence of all the information obtained from basic research, it would be very difficult to predict any future in the treatment of a disease. Continue reading →