Maxwell Zacher

Graduate Student, The Gorbunova Lab

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

I study mechanisms of cancer resistance and longevity in long-living mammal species, particularly the bowhead whale. My focus is on tumor suppressors, DNA repair, and genomic stability.

What was it that originally sparked your interest in biology? 

I have been drawn to nature and animals since I was a little kid. What brought me to biology as a discipline is what I see as the vast potential this field has to improve human life. Modern quality of life does not seem to be improving in step with our continued technological advances - I think this is in part due to many of our most fundamental problems being biological, and I think that many of these problems can be solved.   

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

I appreciate the opportunity I have had here to do research on a specific and unique topic I have long wanted to research, and for which there are few opportunities anywhere else.

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

Have a clear idea of why you are doing a PhD and what your long-term plans are. While plans can change, it is very important to have a sense of direction and tangible goals.

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

Most biological “facts” are oversimplifications. Evolution is infinitely creative - exceptions are everywhere, and scientists should always be open to being surprised or proven wrong. Having a theory is good, but ultimately listen to what the data is telling you.

How do you think our biology department stands out in comparison to other universities?

I think it is the close-knit and supportive environment. You get the message here from the department that every student matters.

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

I like taking my dog Ollie out to explore new places - the woods, a park, a neighborhood. I also like traveling to other cities when I get the chance to explore or reconnect with friends and family. 

What is one thing about yourself that you’d like more people to know? 

I definitely have a serious side, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s who I am. It’s mostly an act.