As a graduate student in neuroscience, I’ve sat through my fair share of science lectures. Aside from distracted students and enzyme cascades, a common recurring theme are Nobel Laureates. Time and time again we would be presented with a key concept and the experiments that led to its discovery, followed by a slide showing two or three smiling older men and a Nobel medal. That medal is included on PowerPoint slides to validate the lesson for the day and to give students something to aspire to. Seems pretty perfect, right? A lone genius would devise a theory, test it, walk away with a Nobel, and live happily ever after.
The problem is that this narrative fails dramatically at illustrating the way science is actually conducted. It doesn’t promote the critical thinking necessary for future scientists, and it alienates students that don’t see themselves represented in the pantheon of Nobel Laureates.
Interview with Beatriz Fontoura, who focuses on the cell biology of viral-host interactions at UT Southwestern
After graduating from the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, with a degree in Biochemistry, Beatriz Fontoura pursued a master’s degree in the Paulista School of Medicine in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She then moved to New York where she was awarded a PhD from the New York University School of Medicine. She stayed in New York during her postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Cell Biology at The Rockefeller University until she moved to Miami to start her own lab at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Fontoura was recruited4 years later to join UT Southwestern in 2005, where she is currently a Professor of Cell Biology, leading a team that studies interactions of virulence factors from RNA viruses with the host’s processes of mRNA splicing and nuclear export.B
“If you don’t like bacteria, you’re on the wrong planet” – Stewart Brand
When we refer to our gut feelings, we seldom think of what exactly is going on in the gut. Over the past couple of years, studies have shown that our feelings in fact do have a lot to do with the residents of our gut. The gut microbiome consists of a community of microorganisms flourishing and thriving inside the gastrointestinal tract, or gut for short. These microorganisms not only influence our feelings, but also have a huge impact on our metabolism and well-being.
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.