All rise for yeast cell biologist Dr Sam Dundon (@serdundon), who joins us at Real Scientists this week! Sam is a post-doctoral fellow at Yale University, studying how yeast cells divide, in order to understand more about the (dys)regulation of cell division in healthy and cancer cells. As always, we asked Sam some questions about her science journey so far:
What brought you to science as a career?
I was very curious and loved science when I was little, like many kids. I think people who grow up to be scientists are the ones who manage not to have that innate curiosity crushed by our school system. I was fortunate to have a very supportive family and teachers who encouraged me to pursue science as a career.
What do you work on and how did you get there?
At the start of grad school (in my program) you did three “trial runs” in different labs to see if you liked the people and the research, and that is how I found my PhD advisor and cell biology. I study yeast (single-celled fungi, similar to those used to make bread) and how they control growth and cellular division. This primarily involves changing the DNA of the yeast and watching how their normal processes are affected by the changes I made. Our cells use much of the same machinery to accomplish their normal functions as yeast cells do, so I can learn about how human cells work but more quickly and easily than by studying human cells directly.
Why is this work important?
Our bodies grow by increasing the number of cells that make up our body, and that happens when an individual cell buildings up enough material to sustain two cells, and then splits in half. Once we are adults, cellular division slows down (except in certain high-turnover areas). If cells persist in multiplying even after it is no longer appropriate to do so, it causes cancer. Understanding how a cell “decides” whether to grow or not is important for treating people in whom this has gone wrong.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the lab?
I love fungi in my home life as well as in lab. I forage for wild mushrooms, ferment my own wine, and make sourdough bread. I enjoy cooking and home preservation methods (making jam, jelly, pickles), as well as textile crafts like spinning and tatting. I also enjoy listening to audiobooks and playing video games.
Please welcome Sam to Real Scientists!