We Are Brandeis Science: Bethany Christmann

There is no rule that says scientists have to look or act a certain way. Scientists can be funny and outgoing, athletic and artistic. They come from all different backgrounds and have all different interests. At Brandeis, our scientists are as diverse as the groundbreaking research they engage in. This on-going series is inspired by This is What a Scientist Looks Like

This post was written by Bethany Christmann, a PhD student in Professor Leslie Griffith’s lab.

Tiny discoveries, big excitement

Where are you from?

I’m from Smithfield, Va., a small town whose biggest employer runs a pork processing plant. If you ever see Smithfield bacon in the grocery store, it’s likely from my hometown!

Bethany Christmann as a GCaMP fluorescent sensor for Halloween.
Bethany Christmann as a GCaMP fluorescent sensor for Halloween.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Growing up, I was really indecisive. I wanted to be a writer, an architect, an astronomer, even a princess. I finally settled on meteorology in high school and chose a college with a great meteorology program. About a year into the program, though, I began to think I might have been wrong yet again. I took a neuroscience class the next semester, and found it fascinating. I had never been so excited about a field before, and my indecision vanished.

What do you research?

I’m researching the link between sleep and memory in fruit flies. It’s been known for a long time that sleep is important for storing long-term memories, but exactly how these are linked in the brain isn’t well understood. A colleague and I recently found that memory neurons are actively involved in sleep. This means that sleep doesn’t just support memory; they’re anatomically linked in the brain.

How do you define discovery and how does it make you feel?

Some days, after a long and successful experiment, I’ll realize that I’ve just uncovered a fact that no one else knows. Until I tell someone else, I’m the only one in the world to know this particular fact. These kinds of tiny discoveries are exciting, and I want to share them with everyone I know. It’s okay that it’s no longer my little secret, because I’ll discover another one in a few days.

What is one, non-career related goal?

Outside of the lab, one of my goals is to become fluent in German. My husband is from Germany, and I would love to be able to engage with his friends and family and get to know them better. They are great people, and I want to keep improving and make them proud.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *