This series introduces the public and fellow researchers to our talented scientists. We interview different IGI members to find out who they are and what makes them passionate about science.
Dr. Dana Foss is a postdoctoral fellow in the Wilson Lab at UC Berkeley. Her work focuses on developing methods of tissue-targeted Cas9 delivery, primarily through use of antibodies, for gene therapy.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where it is sometimes colder than Mars but otherwise a lovely place to be from. I moved to Ottawa, Canada, to pursue my PhD, where the weather is more reasonable!
Why did you become a scientist?
No one in my family is a scientist, but in my high school Chemistry and Biology classes, I realized that there was a hidden world we could explore – the inside of cells, for example, which explains why things are the way they are. There was a seemingly endless amount of information to intellectually feast on, which I enjoyed. When I started to work in research I realized it really suited me: I like to learn, I like to be challenged, and I like to be independent. I find it extremely rewarding that we work towards the pursuit of knowledge, and that we get to do things that no one has ever done before.
What do you like to do besides research?
I love exploring cities and the wilderness, usually by bicycle. I like camping and cross-country road trips with friends in my old VW camper van. While living in the Bay Area, I want to camp in every National Park in California. One of my favorite activities is really just enjoying good food with my friends, preferably in picnic form. I like playing in the garden and growing my own vegetables—it provides a nice balance from the sterile lab environment!
Describe a funny memory you have of working in the lab or in research.
My first PhD project involved a lot of fluorescence cellular imaging, and so I was in a dark room at the microscope for a few hours at a time. I amused myself by listening to music on my headphones and dancing between taking images. More than a few times someone walked in without me noticing while I was having my own silent dance party. It’s hard to hide your quirks from your lab colleagues!
What would you do if you weren’t a scientist?
My backup plan is most definitely to be a goat farmer. Goats are so much fun and goat cheese is delicious! Farming is a lot of work (like science) but you spend a lot of time outside, which I really miss. Also, if I weren’t a scientist I would spend a lot more time reading books, which I don’t have a lot of time for these days.
Tell us about someone or something that inspires you.
I have photos of my grandparents on my desk, who were grain and cattle farmers in rural Manitoba at a time that still involved horses and a lot of manual labor. Anytime I find myself thinking that my job is hard, I remind myself that it is nothing in comparison to what they endured. Their lives remind me that my career as a scientist is a privilege, and that I should enjoy it!
What role do you think science plays in the community and in the world?
Science provides a mechanism with which to understand the world and gives our society information on which to base our collective decisions. It is integral to our society functioning, but also to the human spirit; we naturally look around and wonder how things work, and science allows us to act on our curiosity.
Science gives us the tools with which to understand, and ultimately, to change the world. Of course it is critical, then, that we pursue these advancements intentionally. It is the responsibility of scientists to keep the public engaged with the latest knowledge and advanced technologies, so we can all decide how best to apply them.
The beauty of science is really the resulting information to be intrigued by, to be inspired by. Everyone deserves to share in that, even if they are not participating directly as a scientist.
Click to hear about how Dana is tackling Cas9 delivery in this 16-minute podcast episode, or download wherever you get your podcasts: