Name: Mike Rieger
Hometown: Stamford, CT, USA
Hobbies: Star Trek, ancient languages, hiking, reading, video/audio editing, live entertainment
Lab: Sreekanth Chalasani
Lab website: https://chalasani.salk.edu/
What do you study?
I study how animals seem to make different decisions despite growing up in otherwise identical environments and being genetically very similar. I also study how this decision making is changed when the animal is affected by diseases that affect the brain. Most of the work I have done so far has been in mice, but then when I came to Salk I switched to small microscopic worms. Looks like I’ll be working with some mice again too, so it’s really a zoo over here.
Why is it important?
Human brains are very very complicated and involve millions of cells. Simpler organisms give us a window to understand how basic processes of the nervous system can work. This is important because often in science we have to use a simpler system to understand a more complex one. We have to know where to start looking and finding a needle in a haystack is easier if the haystack is very small.
What piqued your interest in science?
I was an anthropology student initially in college and I took an elective in the evolution of humans and disease. I found evolution and genetics fascinating and knew I needed to learn more and switched into a biology program.
What do you like about being a scientist?
I like being a scientist because it challenges me to think about things in new ways all the time. Especially getting older, it is always good to challenge your brain, learn new skills, adapt, and grow, and working in science forces you to do that. I enjoy teaching others about my work, and that’s a big part of science as well.
What are 5 general vocabulary terms someone should know going into your field of science?
synapse, neurodegenerative disease, gene expression, protein translation, ethogram
What are 5 specific vocabulary terms someone should know about your research?
Caenorhabditis elegans, RNA-Seq, within-subjects design, neuromodulatory neurotransmitter, reporter assay
Preview: Click to see a preview of what makes a tiny worm so big in research science. Attend Mike’s SciChat to learn about it & much more!