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View the full Sara Aton interview transcript.



Highlights from This Episode


  • 9:42 – “The only thing I really understood at that point was that research is a process that brings new knowledge into the world, and basically that all of the stuff I had read in textbooks came about through years and years of research. And at that point in my life, I really had almost an existential yearning to make some sort of contribution to science that would outlive me.”
  • 13:24 – “I had this incredible hopefulness about working in a laboratory setting, which is how people learn new stuff. That, to me, was completely mind-blowing. I have to say, I was probably a little bit starstruck like that...It was sort of this magical feeling of Cinderella going to the ball...But instead of a ball gown, I had a lab coat.”
  • 18:45 – “I love mysteries. I love surprises. And I think there really aren’t that many jobs where, walking into work in the morning, you really don’t know what the day is going to bring you. And I think that’s the thing that I love most about this job: Every day I walk in, and I don’t know what’s going to be going through my mind when I walk out, because I have no idea what could come out of nowhere and blow me away.”
  • 21:58 – “I think that if you look at what nature does, just by itself, it’s actually just endlessly interesting and wonderful.”
  • 32:20 – “You go to sleep, and you may not be conscious, and you may not recall anything that’s going on in your head, but there’s a lot going on in there. And we don’t really know what it all means. So that is still very much a mystery, as to what’s going on in the brain and what all of that communication is for. But there’s plenty of communication going on in your brain. There’s plenty of activity. It’s not a quiet place. Your brain is actually quite busy while you’re asleep.



Scientist Bios

How to Science host Monica Dus is a professor in LSA’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) who studies how the brain responds to the presence and absence of sugar. She wants to figure out how neurons sense and respond to the nutrients eaten as food. Her research relates to feeding behavior, energy balance, physiology, and obesity. She loves her three dogs, whose names are Cupcake, Sprinkles, and Brioche.

Learn more about Monica Dus’s research.

Sara Aton, a professor in MCDB, grew up making visual art and planning to make art her career. (You can tell by looking at her website, where she’s posted a painting by the artist Henri Rousseau.) Now, Sara is a neuroscientist trying to figure out why we sleep and how sleep helps us learn.

Learn more about Sara Aton’s research.




Related Links



Podcast produced by Elizabeth Wason and Monica Dus
Illustrations by Julia Lubas
Photo of Sara Aton by Luna Anna Archey