Amy Gladfelter

Amy Gladfelter
Quantitative Cell Biologist
University of North Carolina

Interview by: Charley Maddox, Princeton Jones, Stella Borsuk, Yanni Gonzalez-Gonzalez

Selfies with Scientists is a project of MBL’s Children’s Programs. We are endeavoring to investigate the world of science through our interviews.

When asked how long she’d been a scientist, Dr. Gladfelter informed the four investigators that she’s always been a scientist. Even when she was a child, she was always exploring the woods and has been curious about the natural world her whole life. In her Woods Hole laboratory, she’s working different types of fungi, which on land are what make mushrooms but in the ocean it is a mystery what they do. “It turns out there are lots of fungi in the ocean and I’m working with a few scientists to discover new species and what they are doing to live in the ocean.” Her team believes the fungi are recycling nutrients and breaking down things like plankton and algae, which is how carbon dioxide is managed on the planet. These ocean creatures support Dr. Gladfelter’s scientific interest in how cells divide and grow.

Gladfelter believes being a scientist is a public career, “We are public servants and thus our community of scientists must reflect our society.” As a scientist, she faces challenges; however, the most important one is that realizing failed experiments don’t mean you’re not a good scientist. Gladfelter told the interviewers that most experiments don’t work but it is important to push on. Dr. Gladfelter said that being a woman in science can be challenging because there aren’t as many women working in science. The culture of science was developed years ago when there weren’t many people of different backgrounds in science. She believes it is important to change the culture of science so it’s inclusive, so that science is a place for everybody. So, the challenge is to change the culture. She ended the interview by saying, “It is an exciting time to be a scientist!”