Meet Christina McManus, Associate Professor of Physiology

 

Christina McManus

Christina McManus, PhD, teaches physiology at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.

March is Women’s History Month, a time when women who have challenged—and continue to challenge—traditional roles are celebrated. In the final installment of our series, we introduce you to APS member Christina McManus, PhD, an associate professor of physiology at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine. (Read part one, part two, part three and part four).

What is your title/role?

I am an associate professor of physiology at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM).

What is your area of research?

My clinical research includes studying the changes in biomarkers (indicators of the presence of disease) in patients with chronic back pain who receive osteopathic manipulative therapy.

My medical educational research includes hosting a “Women in Science” camp designed to encourage and educate middle and high school girls about science-related careers.  We evaluate the girls’ interest in science careers before and after they attend.

How did you become interested in science? Were there women scientists who influenced you or whom you admired?

I always had an interest in science in middle and high school.  I grew up in a small town and didn’t know any women in science-related careers other than nurses.  When I went to college at the University of South Alabama, I took an honors research class and met some fascinating women researchers.  Being around a group of successful, confident and intelligent women—of diverse ages and backgrounds—made a huge impact on me.

What do you like most about your job?

I like teaching physiology and making a hard concept easy and medically relevant to medical school students. I have a great passion for our outreach programs at ACOM, such as the “Women in Science” camp.  More than 125 girls participate [in the camp]. It brings me much joy to provide them with the experience and exposure that I lacked as a kid.

What are your biggest challenges?

My biggest challenge is always finding a new and exciting way to teach science to kids of all ages and backgrounds.

Women's history month design with multicultural hands

Credit: iStock

What do you see as the main barriers to having more women in STEM?

The biggest barrier in my opinion is that young women may not know anyone in a STEM field, and most of these jobs are held by men. Therefore, they don’t see how a woman can be successful in the sciences.

What would you say to young girls with an interest in science/physiology? How would you encourage them to pursue their studies?

I would encourage them to never limit themselves, and be anyone they want to be.  [They should] reach out to as many women as they can in this field [as mentors].  They will be amazed at the possibilities for women in STEM if they search hard enough.

– Erica Roth

Meet Karyn Hamilton, Health and Exercise Science Professor

Health and Exercise Science research at Colorado State Universit

Karyn Hamilton, PhD, teaches health and exercise science at Colorado State University.

March is Women’s History Month, a time when women who have challenged—and continue to challenge—traditional roles are celebrated. In part four of our series, we introduce you to Karyn Hamilton, PhD, a professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. (Read part one, part two and part three).

What is your title/role?

I am co-director of the Translational Research on Aging and Chronic Disease Laboratory at Colorado State University.

What’s your area of research?

We study aging—particularly the role of stress resistance, resilience, mitochondrial function and proteostasis in delaying aging and increasing health span. We have a deep interest in skeletal muscle aging, though we make measurements in many other tissue types.

How did you become interested in science? Were there women scientists who influenced you/you admired?

My first real interest in science started with food. Food was always a focus as a child, an athlete and finally as an undergraduate student in food and nutritional biochemistry. I never really noticed that women were underrepresented in science during my undergraduate training, probably because women have always been at the heart of food science and nutritional sciences. One example is Agnes Fay Morgan (1884–1968). Dr. Morgan, an influential scientist at UC-Berkeley, made important contributions to current knowledge about vitamins and health. She showed that pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is essential for normal coloring of hair and skin by demonstrating that a diet deficient in the B vitamins resulted in depigmentation fox hair. This led to the graying pattern of the then-fashionable silver fox furs. When Dr. Morgan presented these data and accepted the Garvan Medal of the American Chemical Society in 1939, she wore two fox stoles: one from a control animal, which had a deep lustrous shiny black coat, and another dingy gray pelt from a vitamin-deficient animal that was half the size of the other!

I also admire a number of modern-day women in my field. Drs. Wendy Kohrt, Esther Dupont-Versteegden, Charlotte Peterson and Sue Bodine all serve as role models for me. Their rigorous approach to science, influential discoveries in the field of skeletal muscle physiology, and leadership and advocacy for women in science set them apart—not just as women in science, but as leaders in scientific excellence.

What do you like most about your job?

Three of my favorite parts are:

  • Collaboration: Pooling individual strengths into larger collaborations with greater resource availability, problem-solving, creativity, techniques and analytical approaches is vital and leads to discoveries with greater impact.
  • Innovation: It’s an important aspect of scientific inquiry, and the innovative approaches we develop in our lab foster paradigm-shifting research and drive new collaborations.
  • Teamwork: A “party of one” is far less enjoyable than a group sharing enthusiasm for a common goal.

    Women's history month design with multicultural hands

    Credit: iStock

What are your biggest challenges?

Juggling many responsibilities—all of which I want to fulfill to the very best of my abilities—and keeping the research team happy and cared for. Learning to mentor and respond to individual student needs is both challenging and rewarding.

What would you say to young girls with an interest in science/physiology? How would you encourage them to pursue their studies?

Girls [should] never learn that they have less of a chance of success in STEM compared to boys—or compared to their potential achievements in other fields. They should be free to choose what they find most interesting. Helping young people engage in fun STEM activities at an early age is important. Male and female mentors in the sciences are critical.

Erica Roth

 

 

Meet Sue Bodine, Physiology Professor

Sue Bodine

Sue Bodine, PhD, is a physiology professor at the University of California, Davis.

March is Women’s History Month, a time when women who have challenged—and continue to challenge—traditional roles are celebrated. In part three of our series, we introduce you to APS member and incoming editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Physiology, Sue C. Bodine, PhD. (Read part one and part two).

What is your title/role (including institution name)?

I am a professor of physiology at the University of California, Davis.

What’s your area of research?

I am a neuromuscular physiologist whose general field of study is skeletal muscle plasticity. My primary research interest is understanding the mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle size under growth and atrophy conditions. I am also interested in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for muscle’s adaptation to exercise and inactivity and in determining the potential role for exercise in disease prevention and increased quality of life with aging.

How did you become interested in science? Were there women scientists who influenced you/you admired?

I was always interested in science as a high school student but had no exposure to basic research and could have never imagined getting a PhD. The truth is that prior to attending college, I had never met anyone with a PhD and had no idea of what was involved in getting a degree of that level.

I became interested in scientific research as an undergraduate student at UCLA, where I majored in kinesiology. I really enjoyed my lower-division anatomy and physiology courses. Once I started taking upper-division major courses, I was introduced to primary research studies and wanted to know more. I was fortunate that there were many opportunities to participate in research as an undergraduate student. I enjoyed research so much that I applied to the UCLA Departmental Scholars program, which enabled me to work on my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time. It was a great opportunity that ultimately led to my decision to continue my graduate training as a doctoral student.

What do you like most about your job?

The thing I like most about my job is the discovery. Designing experiments and making new discoveries is very exciting. I don’t really see what I do as a job but rather as a career and an adventure. The other fun part of this career is that you get to meet interesting people from all over the world.

What is your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge these days is maintaining funding to support the laboratory. It is a constant process.

What do you see as the main barriers to having more women in STEM?

Women's history month design with multicultural hands

Credit: iStock

I think that the major barrier to having more women in STEM is the culture. More effort needs to be directed toward bringing men and women together to discuss the current culture and how it needs to change to be inclusive and encouraging to everyone.

What would you say to young girls with an interest in science/physiology? How would you encourage them to pursue their studies?

I would encourage young girls to pursue their interests in science and tell them that their goals are obtainable with hard work. The road may have many hurdles, but with self-motivation, determination and perseverance you can be successful. You may need encouragement and help at times to be successful. I recommend finding friends and mentors who can provide support and good advice.

Erica Roth

 

Meet Sabrina Ramelli, Lung Biology Student

Sabrina Ramelli (2)

Sabrina Ramelli studies lung biology at the University of South Alabama.

March is Women’s History Month, a time when women who have challenged—and continue to challenge—traditional roles are celebrated. In part two of our series, we introduce you to APS member Sabrina Ramelli, a PhD student at the University of South Alabama. (Read part one here.)

What is your title/role?

I’m a PhD candidate at the University of South Alabama and a member of the Center for Lung Biology in the College of Medicine.

What’s your area of research?

My area of research is in lung biology, specifically asthma. I am looking for potential targets for hard-to-treat and steroid-resistant asthma.

How did you become interested in science? Were there women scientists who influenced you/you admired?

I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I never really had a woman scientist that I looked up to as a child, but I admired both my anatomy and chemistry teachers who were women. Being a student in their classes really solidified that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean that I can’t do science. In fact, they were proof that women belong in the science world.

What do you like most about your job?

It’s very difficult to pinpoint one thing I like the most. I love the project that I am working on, and I really love the Center for Lung Biology program I am a part of. Although the program is demanding, I am a better scientist for it.

What is your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge right now is determining what I want to do next [in my career]. There are so many options, it is hard to pick.

Women's history month design with multicultural hands

Credit: iStock

What do you see as the main barriers to having more women in STEM?

As a former high school teacher, [I think] the biggest barrier to having women in STEM is [the women] themselves. Many girls don’t want to be labeled the “science nerd” and, therefore, stop following their passion. Breaking down that stigma is only the beginning. After high school, women hear sexist statements and phrases like “women don’t belong in science” or “good old boys’ club.” We need to stand up and not allow this behavior to begin at a young age.

Erica Roth

Your Sweet Memory

Emily Johnson Sugar Learning

Esmeralda Morales-Gonzalez presents her poster “Does chronic sweetener intake affect learning?” at the Experimental Biology 2016 meeting in San Diego. Credit: Emily Johnson

Most of us know it’s not healthy to eat a lot of sugar. Overeating sweets for a long time can cause weight gain, cavities, type 2 diabetes and other health problems. But what if sweets also had effects on your brain and memory? Researchers at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México reported at the Experimental Biology 2016 meeting in San Diego that consuming too much sugar may have negative effects on memory.

Esmeralda Morales-González and her colleagues in the neuroscience research group gave mice either water, sucralose (an artificial sugar) in water or sucrose (real sugar) in water for five weeks. They tested how well the mice learned to solve a water maze. For five days, mice were allowed to learn the location of a hidden platform in a mouse swimming pool. (The platform allows mice to stand and rest so they want to find the platform as quickly as possible.) On the sixth day, the research group measured how long it took the mice to get to the platform.

Mice in the sugar group took longer to find the platform, suggesting they had not learned as well as the mice in the other two groups. The fact that sugar impaired learning in mice is still an early finding, and Morales-Gonzalez stresses that more tests need to be done to confirm their data could apply to humans. For now, the data suggest that sugary treats may have not-so-sweet effects on memory.

Emily JohnsonEmily Johnson, PhD, is an APS member and a former volunteer editor for the I Spy Physiology blog.