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Lauren Weiss, Ph.D.
I am originally from: Rockford, IL
Today, I live in: San Francisco, CA
My Undergraduate Degree was in: Human Genetics
from: University of Michigan
My Graduate Degree was in: Human Genetics
from: The University of Chicago
My other degrees are: Postdoctoral training in neuropsychiatric genetics
from: Harvard and MIT
I currently work at: The University of California, San Francisco
About My Work:
My field of study is: The genetics of autism.
I enjoy this because: As I told a 10-year-old interviewing me for a career report, “doing scientific research is a little like being an explorer to a new country or even a new planet. Almost everything you find out is something that no one in the whole world knows about yet, and you have to think very carefully about what it means and report back to others because it’s a clue to a big puzzle that many people help to work on at the same time. ”
I am currently working on: My lab is working on various aspects of the genetic architecture of autism, understudied effects like gene-gene interaction, gene-sex interaction, gene-environment interaction. We are also working with cells derived from subjects’ skin that we can turn into neurons in the lab and study by using a really exciting new technology. We hope this will lead not only to better understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders but also to better treatment or prevention options.
More About Me:
Right Handed or Left Handed: Right-handed, but my parents claim I was pretty ambidextrous as a child. I would sometimes take notes using my left hand if I was bored in high school just to mix things up, and when I took gymnastics classes I always did cartwheels left-handed.
What is your favorite word? Hmm, probably a made-up word that my sister invented and only my family uses.
What place in the world would you most like to visit? I love to travel, and my next goal is to see primates in the wild, so maybe Costa Rica or even somewhere with great apes.
Do you have any nicknames? Laurie is a nickname I’ve had since a baby, and I don’t think it’s a huge leap from Lauren, but I’m always surprised at the people who are confused when I introduce myself interchangeably.
What was the last song that played on your iPod? Probably Marta Gomez – a fantastic Colombian folk singer – I saw her perform live often in Boston and miss her shows!
Favorite TV show: Top Chef
Desk: messy or organized? Very messy – my study coordinators were extremely excited when I did some filing over the winter and they could actually see my desk surface!
How many languages can you speak and what are they? English (native), German (adequate), Italian (basic), Spanish (a touch), Portuguese and Danish (have tried to learn at some point, but not gotten too far)
Do you play any instruments? Not since quitting piano lessons as a child – I thought there were so many more exciting things to do than practice.
Your Perfect Pizza: Despite considering Chicago home, I would probably go with an Italian-style thin crust with lots of roasted veggies, maybe with pesto and a goat cheese. In Italy I never minded the ones with egg or tuna or other somewhat strange ingredients.
If I was not doing what I am doing today, I might be working as: A pickle-maker. This was the constant joke in graduate school when experiments were not going well. I really do love pickles and passionately feel that there are not enough varieties of pickles out there. One of my postdoctoral colleagues wanted to open an ice cream shop so we felt together we would cater well to pregnant women.
Here is what I'd like to share with the world: I started volunteering with children who had autism and other developmental disabilities when I was a young teenager, so it feels really great to be able to fit in even small pieces of this big puzzle of what’s going on and know that every step along the way can make a difference to real families.
Click here to meet some other NARSAD Young Investigators