Michele Pagano wasn't even out of high school when he began his research career, growing bacteria or observing paramecia before the first bell rang. In an effort to appease his father, Pagano then headed to medical school and earned his MD in 1989, but he couldn't kick the research bug he caught back in that high school laboratory. So he received an additional specialty degree (a sort of Italian equivalent of a PhD) in molecular endocrinology, studying the phosphorylation of estrogen receptors. But this work was messy and inexact. "Everything for me has to be logical," he says. He therefore switched gears to the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), in which "you can work out very clearly the biochemistry," he says. Lo and behold, he and his colleagues found (in "Tagged for Cleansing") there's a lot more to the UPS than first appeared, and its components are also involved...
It wasn't until his second year as an undergrad at Harvard University that Philip Starks knew he wanted to become a research scientist. After taking ethology, ecology, and evolution classes, he recognized a "clear logic in the natural world" that fascinated him, he says. After earning his BA from Harvard, he began his research on the behavior of paper wasps, a semi-social insect that makes its home by chewing wood fibers into a papery comb of hexagonal cells. Now an associate professor in the biology department at Tufts University, he has studied a little bit of everything, from vertebrates to invertebrates and even microorganisms (Wolbachia). In "Experiments in Epidemiology", Starks suggests that epidemiologists grappling with swine flu and other outbreaks "turn honeybees into a model system for disease." They are cheap and easy to manipulate with respect to genetic diversity, population density, and disease susceptibility. "You can't do that with white rats or mice or gerbils," he says.
Jennifer "Jef" Akst, The Scientist's new intern, always loved science but didn't necessarily want to do it herself. "I knew I didn't want to be in academia," she says—that motivated her to take a science writing course and to work for the school newspaper while pursuing a PhD in seahorse mating behavior (yes, the species where the males become pregnant, not females) from Indiana University in Bloomington. You can see her Byline on news stories at The Scientist's homepage, in every section of the magazine, and on her blog, Oh, Behave! at jakst.wordpress.com. She's hoping The Scientist is a first stop on a long career, and is already looking at additional internships. "If I love it as much as I think I'm going to, I need the experience."