This interview with Dr. Miguel Ramalho-Santos, senior investigator at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, or LTRI, is part of Behind the Science, a regular series from Sinai Health Foundation that asks some of its brightest and world-leading researchers about what drives their curiosity about the human body in health and illness. Dr. Ramalho-Santos is Canada 150 Research Chair in Developmental Epigenetics and Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.
What is your area of research and what are you hoping to discover?
Our lab studies developmental epigenetics. We aim to listen in on the conversation between the genome and the environment as they work to determine how the embryo develops and influence its long-term health and disease propensity.
What’s been your biggest 'A-HA' moment to date?
Realizing that molecularly fooling early embryos into thinking they were starved doesn’t kill them, but rather induces a reversible state of suspended animation akin to hibernation.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and why?
Changing institutions and countries. I’ve done it a few times, it is both exhilarating and daunting.
What’s been one of your greatest rewards in your career so far?
Seeing former trainees start their own labs.
What is one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next decade?
Understanding how the environment epigenetically programs embryonic development during pregnancy.
Did you change any of your or your family’s habits as a result of anything you learned from your research?
We all take vitamin C daily.
What is on your bucket list?
I am living it.
What would your perfect day be like?
Staring at places I have never seen before.
Who would you invite, alive or dead, to your dream dinner party?
Theodor Boveri, Barbara McClintock, Niels Bohr, Max Delbruck, Rosalind Franklin, Sydney Brenner, Linus Pauling, John Gurdon, Susan Lindquist. Add Mary Shelley, Henri Matisse, Gertrude Stein, John Ashbery, Fernando Pessoa, Pina Bausch, Sam Sheppard, Nina Simone, Noam Chomsky, Michael Stipe, Morrissey and Kendrick Lamar for good measure.
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