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Kathryn Anderson, grand dame of developmental biology
Sunday, 2021/03/21 | 06:39:53

Ushma S. Neill and  Joan Massagué; PNAS March 9, 2021 118 (10) e2101148118


Figure: Dr. Kathryn Anderson in her laboratory. Image credit: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


One of the most inspirational scientists we have ever known found her own inspiration in the pages of Life magazine. In a 2016 interview with one of us, Kathryn Anderson (1952–2020) mentioned that “in eighth grade, an article caught my eye about human development with a really beautiful picture of a human fetus. That really captured my imagination” (1). Her imaginative mind was thenceforth hooked, and the body of work on embryonic development and patterning that resulted over the next five decades was simply outstanding and represents contemporary biology at its finest. Kathryn spent decades discovering the genes and proteins that interact during embryonic development to control embryonic patterning in both Drosophila and mice. Her work with genetic screening led to seminal discoveries, including genes controlling the body plan of the Drosophila embryo, the immune response in fruit flies and mammals, and the early development of mammalian embryos. But beyond her sophisticated science lay a woman inspired: Inspired to be a leader, a confident mentor, and a steady hand in the careers of so many trainees and fellow faculty colleagues.


Kathryn established a reputation as one of the most passionate, thoughtful, and accomplished investigators in the field of developmental biology. As Founding Chair of the Developmental Biology Program at Sloan Kettering Institute, she built one of the finest developmental biology departments anywhere. Passionate and forceful, yet never strident in her convictions, Kathryn was a champion of female scientists and a role model for all. She noted, that “If I were going to give advice to women interested in science, I’d say follow your passion. Find something that really means something to you, something personal that resonates with you.” She followed this advice in her life, inspired those around her, and we were immensely fortunate to have her as a colleague and friend.


See more: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/10/e2101148118

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