Ann Marie Macara, Ph.D. Candidate in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department, Bing Ye Lab
Hometown: Rochester, NY. Most recent move was from Toronto to Ann Arbor.
Degrees: Honors B.S. Specialty in Animal Physiology and a Minor in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada
Hobbies: Playing with my menagerie (my cat, dog, guinea pigs and hermit crabs), painting and drawing, hiking, long distance running and basically any outdoor activity.
Research: Investigating the functional assembly of the pain circuit and how noxious sensory input alters the neural network during development using Drosophila larva as a model.
What sparked your interest for this research?
I really enjoy the integration between creativity and logic in research. I had originally planned to be an artist in college, but deep down inside I’ve always been a hardcore science nerd (I actually have a large DNA double helix tattooed on my back to prove it).
My current project requires a lot of imaging, so the type of research I do requires both sides of my brain. I feel lucky to have a project that easily lends itself to the combination of art and science.
My interest for neurobiology research was sparked by my fascination with sleep, a fundamental process that has yet to be understood. The ability to really understand how the brain, this extremely complicated network of cells, produces simple behaviors (such as sleep) is just now becoming possible and it is really cool to be a part of that effort. In addition, neuroscience always seems to be the leader in the development of cutting-edge techniques and tools, providing a very exciting field to work in.
What do you plan to do in the future?
My future plans are a little unorthodox but... my ultimate dream job would be as a marine invertebrate curator at an aquarium.
I am currently volunteering at U-M’s Natural History Museum in the Herpetology Division to gain some experience in the museum field. After graduating, I hope to do a postdoc in marine biology. I hope to integrate my imaging skills and interest in neurobiology into this future career.
People who know me know that, if there’s one thing I’m passionate about, it’s marine invertebrates!
What is your biggest concern about the future of biomedical research careers?
Probably my biggest concern is the lack of funding.
What ideas do you have that could potentially improve these issues?
I definitely think there needs to be a much larger push to get basic research scientists to communicate their work to the general audience. Public outreach is so important but is not a widely taught skill in the sciences. If the public were excited about science then there would be an increased desire to fund it.
Who is an “unsung hero” to you?
My mom is definitely my number one role model! She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at the Vanderbilt University. Throughout my life she has encouraged me to follow my passions and to always be enthusiastic about new opportunities. By example she has shown me that through hard work and perseverance you can follow your dreams and interests (no matter how unique or quirky they might be).