Stephanie Luff, PhD

Stephanie Luff

Hometown
Southern Indiana / Louisville, KY, USA (“Kentuckiana”)

Current Residence
New York, NY

Graduate Degree
University of Delaware

Current Position
Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA

  1. What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work? 

My current research uses human pluripotent stem cells to model the establishment of the hematopoietic system during development and identify regulators of mesodermal patterning and the specification of hemato-endothelial progenitors, with the aim of more closely recapitulating embryonic hematopoiesis, including the derivation of hematopoietic stem cells. The most rewarding part of my work is the feeling that my discoveries truly do make an impact within this field of research and have significant potential for improving human health in the future. 

 How would you explain the significance of this work to a lay audience? 

My work strives to understand how to make stem cells similar to those that maintain the blood system in adults.  

What led you to become a scientist and to stem cell research? 

Curiosity. I did not choose this career path through logic and reason but rather, at every stage of my education, I followed my curiosity. It feels fitting that it ultimately brought me to a career that encourages and celebrates further curiosity.  

What is the most exciting aspect of your work? 

The feeling that I’m studying real developmental fate decisions in the dish.  

What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing your area of research? 

I would recommend becoming familiar with developmental biology concepts more broadly, rather than just one’s niche cell type, because evolution is efficient and many cellular processes are conserved across organisms, time points, germ layers, etc. A lot of time and energy can be saved by knowing what is already known. 

Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your stem cell work? 

I’ve been gifted with the infectious positivity of scientists such as Drs. Andrew Elefanty, Nicole Dubois, and Len Zon at critical times of my career, when I needed it most. Research is challenging, and unfortunately sometimes demoralizing, but seeing that it is possible to keep a positive attitude through it all encourages me to overcome these challenges.   

How do you spend your free time? 

Like so many others, I spent a lot of time on my bike over the last couple years. I used to never prioritize free time, but cycling has encouraged me to carve out time in my day for myself, and I think it has made me a better scientist for it. 

What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?  

My obsession with cycling has become so severe that last year I began competing in road races and criteriums, or crit racing. It feels like a logical progression to me, but everyone seems very surprised when I tell them. 

What do you most value about your membership with the ISSCR? 

It connects me with other scientists and the work they do, which relates to my previous recommendation for breadth of knowledge. My first annual ISSCR meeting in 2019 made me realize how many seemingly unrelated discoveries can be connected and helpful to my own work. Equally important to that, my membership has created the channels to meet many scientists that I wouldn’t otherwise. Being within the scientific community is a lot more rewarding than doing science alone.

What is the current focus of your research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work? 

My current research uses human pluripotent stem cells to model the establishment of the hematopoietic system during development and identify regulators of mesodermal patterning and the specification of hemato-endothelial progenitors, with the aim of more closely recapitulating embryonic hematopoiesis, including the derivation of hematopoietic stem cells. The most rewarding part of my work is the feeling that my discoveries truly do make an impact within this field of research and have significant potential for improving human health in the future. 

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