My father is probably the biggest reason that I got interested in science. When I was a child, he was an entrepreneur and created a business as a distributor of laboratory and medical supplies. He sold the supplies to local hospitals and universities in the city where I grew up. So naturally, most of my childhood toys were test tubes, microscopes, dissection kits, and other fun things that helped me look at the world around me in a different way. Because of him, I knew how to use scientific tools before I knew how to read and write.
As a child, I remember looking up into the night sky and wondering how it all fit together. I also remember visiting the Natural History Museum in London and grilling my father about why the dinosaurs went extinct. As an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford University, I studied biology. Animal behavior intrigued me for a time, but molecular biology and genetics won out in the end. I benefited greatly from the encouragement of one of my tutors, David Roberts, and a professor, Jane Langdale, in whose lab I learned how to do experiments properly.
My path into medicine and science was not a straight one, at least not at first. In elementary and high school, I scored well on tests and received special opportunities, but I mostly tried to hide that geek side. It wasn’t cool, and it was definitely not a way to impress girls. In fact, I met the girl who became my wife in 7th grade (so my strategy worked!), and she can’t believe what a different person I actually am compared with the person she knew in high school. Believe it or not, most people thought of me as a jock (three sports: football, basketball, tennis).
My path to becoming a scientist was non-traditional. I grew up in Canada and due to a turbulent family situation left home and school at the age of 15. Returning 12 years later I started classes at Foothill College and discovered a passion for science. I got involved with research immediately upon transferring to UC Berkeley and as an undergraduate and master’s student at UCB, I studied environmental endocrinology with Dr. Tyrone Hayes, performing field studies in Africa and the American Midwest. My research with Dr.
Jeannette Osterloh was a postdoctoral fellow in Steve Finkbeiner’s lab at the Gladstone Institute for Neurological Disease from 2013-2017. She attended California Polytechnic State University for her undergraduate education and the University of Massachusetts Medical School for her graduate studies. Her research focuses on modeling human neurodegenerative diseases in induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). She specifically focuses on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is “trying to figure out what goes wrong at a cellular level in early stages of the disease, with the goal of identifying therapeutics” (Jeannette). Cultivating these types of cells can be very labor intensive, and Jeannette can be found in our tissue culture room almost every day.