Sara Wong is in the second year of a Ph.D. program in Cellular and Molecular Biology at U-M, and works in the lab of the LSI’s Lois Weisman.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, she enjoys running and abstract painting. During her undergraduate years at Queens College, she ran track and cross country, and studied biology while minoring in biochemistry and studio art.
At U-M, she co-founded CMB Career Development, an organization that helps develop and coordinate career development workshops for graduate students and postdocs.
How do you think scientific research can be made accessible to the public?
I think it is essential that scientists and the general public are able to communicate with one another. We all need to continue practicing speaking to each other. It should be a lot more routine for scientists to speak to this audience. Often the audience hears about scientific research and may not want to approach it, because they are unfamiliar with the language and its context.
Here’s how I would explain my research, for example. I study yeast. My research involves studying the coordination between motor proteins and the cell cycle. I like to describe the motor proteins as a bus, where I look at how the cargo gets on and off the bus. Hopefully I’ll be able to understand how the process of cargos getting on and off the bus is coordinated in space and time in the context of everything else that’s happening in a cell. I want to know how the cargo knows when to get off the bus; how are all of the events between the motor protein and the cell cycle able to correspond at the same time? Understanding the coordination between motor proteins and the cell cycle would help our comprehension of how specialized cells function. With more exploration, there could be positive implications in, possibly, aiding cancer treatments, neurological diseases, and digestive disorders.
I think scientists are so into their research that we sometimes forget the big picture, or even the simple picture. Basic research is perceiving how things work, and so, before we can even begin to know how to help anyone, we must learn how to help everyone to understand what we’re doing and why.
— Interview by Christopher Ransburg