M. Angela Cenci has important administrative and representative duties in her work as a lab director at a major university, but it is her actual work in the lab developing new ideas, techniques and experiments that really makes her tick.
MJFF spoke with Angela in the latest of our monthly feature, Three Questions for a Researcher. Here she talks about her wish to help develop better treatments for Parkinsonís disease (PD), and about the challenge of juggling her duties as professor, director, scientist, and mother. Read on to get to know her and her work a little better.
MJFF: What is the biggest challenge you face in your research today?
AC: Being a full professor and a lab director in an academic institution, I†have heavy responsibilities in procuring funding, in my administrative role, official duties representing the university, and in advising faculty appointments.†All of these provide unique challenges. Funding, since it determines how ambitious we can be in our projects, as well as the possibilities for expanding into new directions. Administrative duties and advisory appointments can become a challenge when they take away from the time that I spend in the lab. Sometimes I wish I could leave administration and representation to someone else and just immerse myself in the lab work. But this privilege is only given to me for limited periods of time.
MJFF: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about your daily work with PD?
AC: How much I want for our experimental work to really make a difference for people who suffer from PD. When I think about this, Iím bursting with so many ideas and I wish we were able to do so much more, so much faster.
As a scientist, you have to accept that progress takes time, that there are no shortcuts to rigorous and systematic work, and that scientific knowledge always brings about progress even when there are no immediate returns in terms of curing a human disease. But I am a translational scientist: I am anxious that our work will make a tangible difference for people who suffer from diseases, and that our work will do so during my lifetime!
MJFF: How do you unwind after work?
AC: Well, I have a family. As soon as I enter the door, I have to think about what we are going to eat for dinner, whether the kids have done their homework, whether there are bills to pay, etc. As you might imagine, this requires a completely different mindset from my work at the university.†