What is your job title?

Professor of Cellular & Developmental Neurobiology

Please describe your journey into STEM?

I work with the fruit fly Drosophila and use it to solve essential questions of neuronal ageing and degeneration. For this, we focus on the cable-like extensions of nerve cells that wire our body and the cellular skeleton that maintains them for up to a century! In flies we can study this topic in far greater detail than in any other organism, and the outcome is relevant to human health. This strategy is not well understood among many scientists, yet can save society enormous amounts of science funding. We are the worldwide only initiative systematically advocating fruit fly research, have developed and shared vast amounts of resources and discovered schools as the most important target audience, where we collaborate with teachers to develop and share school resources using fruit flies as most powerful and memorable teaching tools in classrooms.

What is a STEM-related question or challenge you would love to solve one day?

Fundamental science, in our case biology, is essential to the curriculum, but requires good conceptual understanding. Conveying scientific concepts in simple and fundamental ways requires deep understanding of the topic, a task close to impossible to achieve for teachers given the amount of specifications they need to cover. I aim to achieve close scientist-teacher collaboration, combining both expertise’s in a way that science is taught correctly and in the context of relevant applications and using fascinating examples.

Why do you think the Great Science Share for Schools is important?

Active involvement is the best way to learn and realise the beauty of science. Having an idea, implementing and trying it out and getting to a result is the essential process of science and establishes a person as a scientist. This is true for my PhD students who realise that they can take ownership of their own research, and it is true for school kids, who might then carry this on into their later lives.

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