What are your areas of expertise?
My expertise is in the area of pluripotent stem cell culture optimization with an emphasis on media development (mTeSR1, TeSR2) and in biobanking, specifically the banking, characterization, and global distribution of high quality PSC materials. I actively participate as part of the International Cell Banking Forum, and work with other leaders in the area in developing and refining consensus standards and practices for the banking and distribution of both research and clinical grade stem cells. I minored in bioethics as part of my PhD program, and that background keeps me very interested in ethics and policy, and their relation to the field.
What led you down your current career path?
I have an MS in Reproductive Endocrinology and PhD in Embryology/Developmental Biology focusing on the impact of culture conditions (including medium formulation) on in vitro embryo physiology and developmental competence. Initially, I thought I would graduate and direct an IVF clinic, but during my time as a PhD student, Dr. James Thomson published his seminal work on the derivation of human ES cells. I became enamored with stem cell research and its long term possibility to dramatically impact the future of human health. Upon graduation I accepted a post-doc position with him, aimed at refining culture systems for ES cells.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In the summer, my gardens consume a good deal of my free time – I have a vegetable garden, several large shade gardens and a native woodland perennial garden – and they keep me sane. Camping and canoeing are also favorites. In the winter, I do a lot of cooking.
What is one thing that your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
I paid for my first two years of college with my goat show winnings; most people are surprised to learn that you can show goats professionally. Also, I have a huge Mardi Gras party at my house every year with homemade jambalaya and fried catfish. One year, the UK Stem Cell Bank planned an overlapping conference, and I hauled beads and masks to London with me and passed them out to attendees.
What is your favorite thing about living in Madison?
While this town has all you need in terms of amenities, I love how quickly you can get away from it all, and go hiking, camping and canoeing. I drive past corn fields and family farms to get home, yet I live 6 miles from downtown Madison and less than 15 minutes from work.
What do you gain from your membership with the ISSCR?
If you work in stem cell research, the ISSCR Annual Meeting is a must. It attracts thought leaders from around the world and provides an environment where not only formal presentations, but private conversations, can happen easily. Where else can you touch base with colleagues, collaborators, and clients – and, more importantly, future colleagues, collaborators, and clients – from around the world with so little effort and expense? I get at least as much good information over a beer and a nosh at the poster session as I do pouring over journals all year long. Attendees get the untold story straight from the scientists that did the work, and occasionally the unpublishable negative data prevents you from wasting time and dollars in your own lab repeating futile work. I will absolutely be in Vancouver this year.