• Stirling  Churchman

    Stirling Churchman | Researcher, Harvard Medical School

    I run a research group that studies how genes in DNA are turned on through the production of RNA from DNA by the cellular machine RNA polymerase.

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    High School Activities:
    Ice Hockey, Bicycling, Theater
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Cornell University, Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Stanford University, Ph.D., Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Knowledge of molecular biology, chemistry, and physics; basic computer programming skills; comfort with mathematics

    After enjoying math and physics in high school, I decided to keep taking them in college. I really loved how elegantly math and physics could explain the world. I had multiple research experiences in college in galaxy formation, solar physics, and biophysics. Through this research and classes, I became fascinated with biology, especially large cellular machines. I wanted to understand how a very large molecule could be organized to do something so precise and essential for life. Despite my interest in biology, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in physics and do my thesis research in biochemistry. I studied a myosin motor protein that walks around cells, moving items to where they need to be. As a postdoctoral researcher, I began to study RNA polymerase that moves along DNA and copies it to RNA. My research group and I are continuing this work today.

    My Advice: There are all types of scientists, and there are many ways to become a scientist. Science thrives from diverse viewpoints, so don’t be afraid to try something new.

    http://churchman.med.harvard.edu/

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  • Rhiju Das

    Rhiju Das | Scientist, Stanford University School of Medicine

    My lab tries to understand how seemingly simple molecules like RNAs and proteins underlie life and disease.

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    High School Activities:
    Computer Games, Music
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Harvard University, Physics
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Stanford University, Ph.D., Physics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Proficiency in computer programming, chemistry, physics and calculus; public speaking, writing, and team management skills

    I trained in particle physics and cosmology in college. Then, an encounter with the experimental 3D structure of the ribosome (the protein-making machine in all cells) led me to switch to molecular biophysics. My lab and I focus on creating computer models and experimental tools to predict how biological machines work and to design new ones. We are co-developers of the interactive puzzles in NOVA Labs' RNA Lab, which themselves come from an exciting project: the online game Eterna. This game crowd-sources cutting-edge experimental research in RNA nanotechnology to over 100,000 players.

    My Advice: Seek doable problems that challenge you and have you interacting with other students—through math competitions, creating videogames, and team science projects.

    http://daslab.stanford.edu/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/science/11rna.html?_r=1&

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/07/ff_rnagame

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  • Ella Hartenian

    Ella Hartenian | Research Associate, The Broad Institute

    I use mammalian cells to model diseases. By altering protein expression, we investigate disregulation and cellular response to drugs.

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    High School Activities:
    Soccer, Reading, Student Government
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Smith College, Environmental Biology
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Wet lab (tissue culture and molecular biology) experience, knowledge of basic programming, and communication skills

    I first became interested in science in my junior year of high school in Arlington, MA, while taking AP biology and chemistry. In college, I pursued ecology because I thought I would hate being cooped up inside a lab working all by myself, but I still loved thinking about scientific questions. To my surprise, when I had the opportunity to try working in a bacteria lab in my last year of college, I loved it! I found that the lab work fit my multitasking personality and that I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about complex cellular processes. I moved from my lab at Smith College to Biogen Idec, where I worked as a summer intern developing assays to determine the purity of drugs at different stages of production. Wanting a more academic setting, I began my current job at the Broad Institute in the Genetic Perturbation Platform. I work as a technician in the R&D group developing tools and technology for other researchers at the institute to use. I am currently applying to graduate school to study molecular biology and am interested in pursuing questions about molecular evolution.

    My Advice: Ask lots of questions! When you don't understand something, don't feel shy to ask for clarification. Also, remember that science is huge! There are questions and areas to study for almost everyone. Don't worry if you don't like what you're currently learning or studying, there are many other interesting areas to pursue.

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  • Janet Iwasa

    Janet Iwasa | Biologist/Molecular Animator, University of Utah

    I’m interested in using animation to visualize and explore molecular hypotheses.

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    High School Activities:
    Band, Odyssey of the Mind Program, Crafts
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Williams College, Biology, Asian Studies
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of California–San Francisco, Ph.D., Cell Biology
    To Do My Job You Need:
    3D-animation experience, thorough understanding of molecular and cellular biology, great communication skills

    I’m currently a research assistant professor in the biochemistry department at the University of Utah. My broad goal is to create accurate and compelling molecular and cellular visualizations that will support research, learning, and scientific communication.

    My illustrations and animations have appeared in scientific journals including Nature, Science, and Cell as well as in the New York Times. They have also been featured on television and in museum exhibits. I was recently named a 2014 TED fellow and recognized as one of the “100 Most Creative People” of 2012 by Fast Company magazine.

    As a postdoctoral fellow, I created a multimedia exhibit with Nobel laureate Jack Szostak (Harvard University) and the Museum of Science, Boston. I later worked on biological visualizations as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. I received my Ph.D. in 2006 from the University of California, San Francisco, for my work on the actin cytoskeleton in the laboratory of Dyche Mullins. I completed 3D-animation training at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects later that same summer.

    My Advice: Explore different fields! Take English classes and learn how to write well. Take art classes and gain some confidence in your ability to draw, paint, etc. Take computer science classes and learn how to do some coding. All of these skills are going to help you if you end up going into science—or in your other endeavors in life!

    http://biochem.web.utah.edu/iwasa

    http://exploringorigins.org/

    http://onemicron.com/

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  • Mohini Jangi

    Mohini Jangi | Ph.D. Graduate, MIT

    I investigate how processing messenger RNAs in different ways impacts stem cell biology in normal development and in diseases such as cancer.

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    High School Activities:
    Painting, Dance
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Brandeis University, Biology
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D., Biology
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Knowledge of molecular biology and cell biology, computer programming skills, presentation and writing skills, creativity

    I study the mechanisms by which RNAs are processed to create mature messages. The particular variety of messenger RNAs within a given cell makes up that cell's transcriptome. The transcriptome is made up of many subsets of messenger RNAs that help define the function of a cell. Turning particular subsets, or networks of messages, on and off determines what an immature cell will become: a neuron, muscle cell, or skin cell, for example. The careful regulation of messenger RNA processing is important in normal human development as well as in diseases such as cancer.

    My Advice: Set realistic expectations. Don't be afraid to try something because it might not work and run with it wholeheartedly when it does.

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  • Joanne Kamens

    Joanne Kamens | Scientist Manager, Addgene

    I am the CEO of a cool science nonprofit. Addgene helps scientists around the world share a type of research material made of DNA called a plasmid.

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    High School Activities:
    Science Fiction, Synagogue Youth Group, Math Club
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Pennsylvania, Biology
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Harvard University, Ph.D., Genetics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Knowledge of molecular biology; communication skills; math proficiency; management, software, and social media skills

    As the executive director of Addgene, a mission-driven nonprofit, I’m dedicated to helping scientists around the world share plasmid reagents. I received my Ph.D. in Genetics from Harvard Medical School and then spent 15 years at BASF/Abbott. In 2007, I joined RXi Pharmaceuticals as senior director of research collaborations. At one point during my time at BASF, I realized that I had spent a whole week in meetings there and not seen one other woman. In response to this lack of diversity, I founded the current Boston chapter of the Association for Women in Science and have served on numerous other boards. In 2010, I received the Catalyst Award from the Science Club for Girls for longstanding dedication to empowering women in STEM; in 2013, I became a fellow of the Massachusetts Academy of Science recognizing scientific accomplishment and service to the science community. In 2013, I was named one of PharmaVoice's 100 Most Inspiring People.

    My Advice: Find good mentors and advisors. Don't settle for bosses who don't help you grow and learn.

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  • Naomi Latorraca

    Naomi Latorraca | Graduate Student, Stanford University

    I am a first-year rotation student in Rhiju Das's lab, where we study problems about RNA structure and function.

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    High School Activities:
    Piano, Flute, Science Olympiad and Math teams, Tennis, Hiking, Biking
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    University of Pittsburg, Molecular Biology and History
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    Stanford University, Ph.D. (Candidate), Biophysics
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Curiosity about biological and physical problems, computer programming skills, understanding of molecular biology

    My initial interest in biology was sparked in high school when I saw computational 3D models of proteins and nucleic acids for the first time. I was struck by their symmetry and intricacy. In college, I became involved in research with Michael Grabe, who studies membrane proteins and the transport of sugar, salt, and water across cellular membranes. We developed a computer model for predicting whether proteins are stabilized in the membrane that was based on physical principles like elasticity. At Stanford, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. that combines computational and experimental approaches to better understand macromolecules like RNA and proteins.

    My Advice: Find a particular problem that you are passionate about and then think about it from multiple perspectives.

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  • Adrien Treuille

    Adrien Treuille | Computer Scientist, Carnegie Mellon University

    I invent the future and train graduate students to do the same.

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    High School Activities:
    Reading and Writing Poetry: Samuel Taylor Coleridge FTW!
    Undergraduate Institution + Degree:
    Georgetown University, Computer Science
    Graduate Institution + Degree: 
    University of Washington, Ph.D., Computer Science
    To Do My Job You Need:
    Interpersonal, speaking, and writing skills; proficiency in computer programming and math; organizational skills; focus

    As an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, my research seeks radical answers to complex scientific challenges, from using model reduction to model fluids to developing online games that allow people to design real biomolecules (Foldit and Eterna).

    Being a professor has given me tons of great experiences: I’ve spoken at the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology at the White House, won a Keck award, and was named one of the top 35 innovators under the age of 35 by MIT Technology Review. NOVA scienceNow even made a documentary about my work!

    My Advice: When you face a fork in the road, pick the path that looks more fun!

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/adrien-treuille.html

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~treuille

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