"Take Five" with Frances Moore, Course Assistant, Embryology

Embryology course assistant Frances Moore prepares course material and plans course events. Credit: Nora Bradford
Frances Moore is preparing for her transition into a PhD program in Biology in the Fall. Credit: Frances Moore
Frances Moore is preparing for her transition into a PhD program in Biology in the fall. Credit: Frances Moore

"Take Five" is an occasional feature in which we pose five questions to an MBL community member about their career, dreams, and passions. 

After she graduated from Stony Brook University, Frances Moore decided to stick around as a post-baccalaureate researcher in the lab of David Matus, who studies developmental biology, specifically cell-cycle regulation. After a prolific couple of years in the lab, Moore will be joining Yale University’s Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology PhD program in the fall. In the meantime, MBL was lucky to have her as an assistant for the Embryology course this summer. 

When and why did you first become interested in science?
I've always really liked biology since my high-school experience, so I went to Stony Brook University thinking I would be pre-med. That changed immediately when I realized the competitive atmosphere that surrounded being pre-med. So I kind of floated for a little bit, not knowing what I wanted to do with science until I took my first developmental biology course. That really sparked my interest. I remember learning about the  loss-of-function mutation of the Hox gene antennapedia, where flies develop ectopic antennae, and I was like, “Woah that’s crazy!”  So from there, I really hit the ground running. I took an upper-level developmental genetics class at Stony Brook and I just fell in love with C. elegans as a model organism.

Now I work on understanding how cells transition from quiescent to proliferative to terminally differentiated states. I'm fascinated by cell-cycle regulation. That's something that's really exciting and gets me motivated. 

How did you hear about the MBL, and what drew you to become a course assistant this year?
David Matus, a faculty member in the Embryology course, actually met his postdoc advisor, David Sherwood, at the MBL. Sherwood is now a co-director for Embryology. So everybody in my lab who has been to the MBL talked about it being a life-changing experience. Everybody has a phenomenal time here, so I was really excited when Dr. Matus brought up the opportunity for me to potentially be a course assistant here. I was really excited to experience the MBL firsthand.

What do you do as a course assistant? 
It varies day to day depending on how far along we are in the course. In the beginning it was a lot different than it was later in the course. But a typical day begins with a lecture every morning, which is really exciting because I get that student experience despite me not being a student. I get to hear a bunch of different guest lecturers, ask questions, and meet new faculty from all over. It’s been particularly exciting to me because I had interviews for graduate school virtually, but I got to meet some of the faculty that I interviewed with in person here for the first time. After lecture, I do some of my course assistant jobs. I do behind-the-scenes work to make sure the course runs smoothly. There's also a lot of fun, extracurricular things that I get to help with as a course assistant, like I prepare for the July Fourth parade and plan the course dinner.

What has been your favorite topic covered in the course so far?
I really liked Paula Montero Llopis, microscopy core director at Harvard University, teaching about microscopy. I thought that was really informative and applicable to any aspect of biology, which was really exciting to me. I've also never heard someone talk about microscopy in such a translational way. I felt like anybody, no matter what their background, could understand what she was saying. Plus, she was the first female Hispanic professor that I got to watch, which was really impactful to me. 

What do you hope to take away from your experience this summer?
I've had a lot of exposure to different model organisms. Since I've only ever worked with C. elegans, it's been really eye-opening to work with Xenopus and to see tardigrades and things of that sort. It has really opened my eyes to how big of a field embryology is, all the different avenues you can take, and the benefits of each animal system. It’s been really impactful to me, especially as I start grad school and think about which labs I’d like to rotate in.

This experience has been great. I believe anyone who has an opportunity to be a part of a course, whether as a course assistant or as an actual student, should jump at it. It's been inspiring to see everyone do really cool science and also just be great friends to each other and support each other.