Anne Benraiss

Lab Technician, The Bergstralh Lab

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

I am currently working in the Bergstralh Lab, studying spindle orientation in Drosophila epithelial cells. When cells divide, a group of proteins guide the mitotic spindle into its correct position. We seek to understand how these proteins work together to attain this position in epithelial tissues, where cells divide symmetrically to give rise to two identical daughter cells.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology?

I spent my childhood in Senegal, where my father was working as a soil microbiologist in an international development program. We lived very close to his lab, and after school he used to bring me along to show me, under a microscope, the sulfate-reducing bacteria he was studying. I was taking ballet classes at the time and he used to describe to me the pinkish bacteria as little pink tutu-wearing ballerinas, which sparked my scientific curiosity at a very young age.

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

Take time to visit different labs in the biology department and to meet with both researchers and students. Don’t hesitate to observe and ask questions before deciding what you would really enjoy studying. You’ll have nearly endless opportunities to delve into what you love!

What’s the most important thing that you’ve learned working here and/or studying biology?

Studying biology is a never-ending source of wonder to me. Whatever the organisms you are studying (I studied human cells, as well as mice, frogs and flies’ cells throughout my scientific career), they all offer so many surprises that you cannot cease to be amazed, realizing at the same time how life can be fragile and needs protection.

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

I absolutely love traveling, especially by train. Just before the pandemic, in the fall of 2019, I train-traveled the entire West Coast (from San Diego to Seattle) for 18 days, and it was an extraordinary journey that I yearn to replicate in other countries. My biggest dream is to one day travel the whole length of the Orient Express route!