Research Spotlight: Michelle Monje Deisseroth, MD, PhD

Michelle Monje

Michelle Monje Deisseroth, MD PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Stanford University

1. Where are you from?/Where did you study?

I am from a town called Danville in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I studied biology at Vassar College, then went to medical school and did a neuroscience PhD at Stanford University, followed by residency training in neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical school and finally pediatric neuro-oncology fellowship training at Stanford University.

2. What are you researching right now?

 The simplest answer is “DIPG”. There are 16 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and staff scientists in my laboratory, each working on an exciting project relevant to pediatric high-grade glioma biology. My laboratory is focused on understanding how the brain and brainstem develop during childhood, how these processes of neurodevelopment go awry in gliomagenesis and how we can better treat DIPG and other high-grade gliomas of childhood. Together, these areas of focus elucidate cell-intrinsic and microenvironmental targets of therapy for DIPG.

3. Who is your all-time favorite scientist and why?

 The Spanish neuroscientist Ramon Y Cajal is a long time hero of mine because of his meticulous study of neurocytoarchitecture, his beautiful illustrations of neurons and his remarkable insightfulness. But I must admit that the most inspiring scientist to me is (my husband) Karl Deisseroth, because of his incredible creativity, innovation, productivity and his tireless scientific pursuit for truth.

4. What do you like to do in your spare time?

 What spare time?

5. Favorite food?

 Pizza! (but I try very hard not to eat it).

6. Why science?

 Simply put, because our therapies are insufficient. I love caring for patients and I am grateful that clinical practice is a part of what I do, but our therapeutic options are inadequate. Science enables us to seek the answers we lack and to find the solutions we need.

7. Who/What has inspired you to work on DIPG?

 In medical school, I cared for a young girl with DIPG…I was shocked that we had so little to offer her and that we knew next to nothing about her disease. I wanted to change that.

8.What are you reading right now?

 I am reading the Harry Potter series with my kids. We are nearly done with book 7.

9. If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering a research career, what would it be?

 Study what you are passionate about, and always try to prove your hypotheses wrong.

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