Mariana Cook’s book, “Faces of Science,” portrays 77 scientists who have made many of the most important discoveries of our time. Each photograph is accompanied by a personal essay written by the scientists. The portraits in this online series are accompanied by excerpts from those essays. For more information, please visit Mariana Cook’s website: www.cookstudio.com.
As a scientist, you have to be in agreement with what you observe and not with what you think beforehand. I have always been interested in the development of the embryo because it is fascinating to me that a single cell can give rise to such a complex organism as a human being. I like the challenge and the call on the imagination required by research.
I grew up in Britain, where my mother was a school-teacher and I was one of her pupils in elementary school. I am immensely grateful for the education she gave me. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, her example inspired me and gave me the ambition to learn and to try and understand the complexity of the world.
My scientific activity has been devoted to studying the embryogenesis of the nervous and immune systems. Through my work, I have learned that certain cells which will form the embryo display a very special behavior because they move away from the place in which they originate to contribute to distant tissues. This typical feature was not fully realized before I devised a technique which allows us to follow the migration and fate of embryonic cells throughout development. Applying this cell-marking technique, based on the construction of chimeras (which means associating cells from two different species whose cells can be recognized) in an avian embryo, sheds light on unsuspected events, which are crucial in the fields of cell and development biology as well as in evolutionary biology.