Follow the data where it leads you, especially when it wasn't what you expected to find.
The moment I knew a career in science was for me:
As a high school student I had the amazing opportunity to work at the National Institute for Mental Health. The main project I worked on was studying whether phenylethylamine was a neurotransmitter using rats as a model. While this was an exciting projectto work on, it involved a lot of biochemistry, organic extractions, and mass spectrometry – which are somewhat hard to relate to as a high school student. However, while I was working in the lab a visiting scientist allowed me to assist him on a simple experiment. This involved going into a clean room where he was growing neurons from human nasal passages in a dish! The moment I looked at the neuron through the microscope, I was hooked. I continue, now almost 2 decades later, to be amazed every time I look through a microscope.
I received my B.S. with High Honors in Microbiology from the University of Maryland, College Park. During my time at Maryland, I worked for 2.5 years in the laboratory of Dr. Jane Glazebrook. The Glazebrook lab utilizes Arabidopsis, a plant genetic model system, to study plant pathogen interactions. As it was a small lab, I had the opportunity to have my own project, and present in lab meetings, joint group meetings, and a national meeting. This experience made me decide to go to graduate school.
Because I graduated a semester early, I worked for 8 months as a technician in the laboratory of Dr. Soichi Tanda. The Tanda lab uses Drosophila as a model. This was my first exposure to using flies.
I received by Ph.D in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. My mentor was Dr. Ilaria Rebay. In the Rebay lab, I utilized Drosophila to study Yan, a transcriptional repressor regulated by the EGFR/Ras/MAPK pathway, and defined a new biochemical function for the transcriptional co-activator Eyes Absent (Eya) as a tyrosine phosphatase.
My postdoctoral work was performed in the laboratory of Dr. Allan Spradling at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Embryology. It was there I began the project I now continue in my own laboratory – defining the molecular mechanisms of prostaglandin action using Drosophila.
Since moving to UIowa:
It is hard to believe I have been at the University of Iowa for 6.5 years. The laboratory has accomplished a lot in its first six years. We have received numerous internal grants including: Carver Medical Research Initiative Grant, American Cancer Center Pilot Grant administered by the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and a Biological Sciences Funding Program grant. Additionally, we were awarded a National Science Foundation Grant. This funding reflects the scientific progress we have been making and the papers we have been publishing. We have a number of exciting projects underway (see Research Interests) and expect to publish a few more papers in the next year. Notably, through a collaboration with Dr. Kris DeMali, Biochemistry, we are now studying the roles of prostaglandins in cancer.
Teaching is also an important aspect of being a faculty member at UIowa. In the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department we have developed a new 2nd year curriculum for our graduate students – a series of 6 critical thinking courses to take students from observers to evaluators of science. I co-direct the module on Biochemistry. Additionally, I lecture in Fundamentals of Dynamic Cell Processed.
The lab is also involved in a number of outreach activities. We host lab tours for high schools students throught the University of Iowa's Workplace Learning Center. Additionally, we are teaching a pharmaco-genetics section in the Genetics course at Howard University, Washington D.C. in conjunction with Dr. Anna Allen.