Hannah Steinert

Graduate Student, The Portman Lab

You work in a laboratory.  What are you currently researching?

Currently, my main project focuses on the developmental timing of sex-specific maturation of the nervous system in C. elegans. To summarize, animals must modify their behavior as they transition from juveniles to adults and males and females must do this differentially to maximize their fitness. This modification in behavior ultimately comes from changes in neural circuit function, however, we don’t know how these changes are regulated to happen during the juvenile-to-adult transition. I’m using the model organism C. elegans, a species of nematode, to investigate whether this is regulated by the heterochronic pathway, of which conserved components have been shown to regulate the timing of the onset of puberty in mammals.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

While I took a variety of science classes in high school, I came to love biology through my undergraduate studies where I met passionate professors that sparked my own curiosity about the natural world. My drive to pursue research ultimately came from my curiosity of animal behavior and the desire to understand it at a genetic level.

What do you enjoy most about working here at the U of R?

What I enjoy most about working at the U of R is that I am held to a high standard, which pushes me to constantly better myself as a scientist.

What advice would you give to prospective students looking to study in our department?

Ultimately, I would advise prospective students to keep an open mind about what they research. Sometimes what you think you’ll enjoy isn’t what you expected and sometimes what you think you’ll dislike is something you find interesting.

How do you unwind when you’re not in the lab?

I primarily hang out with friends to unwind, whether that is going out on the town or simply watching a movie together.