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Meet Peggy Goodell, Ph.D., ISEH vice president, from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.

Posted By ISEH Headquarters, Saturday, January 21, 2012

Focused and Forthright: ISEH Board Member Charts Strong Career Path

Margaret Goodell, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Director, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Center
Baylor College of Medicine
Houston, Texas, USA

Margaret "Peggy” Goodell, Ph.D., is ISEH vice president and serves on the 2012 Scientific Program Committee. She has been on the faculty of the Baylor College of Medicine since 1997.

Her route to Baylor included some very interesting stops. Undergrad work was split between two continents – starting at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, USA and finishing at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England. Goodell’s Ph.D. was achieved at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England.

"While looking for post-doctoral positions from graduate school, I was very interested in the future of cell and gene therapy,” Goodell recounts. "I realized that hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) were the key to long-term therapy of blood diseases, so I sought out Richard Mulligan's lab, for his combined interest in stem cells and gene therapy. Very few labs were interested in any kind of stem cells, so I was fortunate to find a small niche where their promise was recognized. There, my goal was to learn how to make HSCs replicate without differentiating, which I saw as critical to using them therapeutically. While no lab has yet achieved this goal, it led me to identify the Hoechst dye efflux properties of stem cells, and a new way to purify them. I have continued to use the "side population" purification strategy, refining it over time, as I have investigated the genes that regulate the normal function of HSCs.”

Mulligan’s lab was at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA. From there, she moved to Baylor. Goodell’s current work is focused on the regulation of normal HSCs, and what goes awry in cancer. She is particularly interested in how epigenetic mechanisms, specifically DNA methylation, control HSC self-renewal and differentiation. Recent entries in a long list of published manuscripts include "CD81 is essential for the re-entry of hematopoietic stem cells to quiescence following stress-induced proliferation via deactivation of the Akt pathway” in PLoS Biology and "Irgm1 protects hematopoietic stem cells by negative regulation of IFN signaling” in Blood.

In addition to her research, a rewarding part of Goodell’s work is the opportunity to work with those early in their careers and assist them in moving forward. Goodell directs a laboratory of about 20 students and post-doctoral fellows.

"At the 2011 ISEH meeting, I gave a workshop on academic career development,” she shares. "It was a thrill for me to present the workshop alongside Shannon McKinney-Freeman, who was my first graduate student, and now has an independent faculty position at St. Jude's Children's Hospital.”

In addition to her ISEH involvement, Goodell has served on the board of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (2005-2008), and on the Scientific Committee for Stem Cells for the American Society of Hematology (2009-2012). She currently is on the editorial boards of Cell Stem Cell and PLoS Biology, and serves as a reviewer for multiple journals and granting agencies.

She points to the tight funding situation as the biggest challenge facing academia today.

"The tight funding situation will slowly force changes in the way we do science,” she notes. "Universities and medical schools will have to adapt their expectations of the purpose of their stable of scientists, and we may see fewer trainees and more professional staff with time. As these changes will evolve slowly, we will have to anticipate and adapt to them in advance, or even better, lead them.”

While deeply involved with her work, Goodell strikes a balance by being equally as involved in the lives of her three young daughters, ages 11, 9 and 7.

"With them I get to dabble in lots of activities, such as re-learning the joys of things like poetry, history, algebra, Latin, piano and art,” she says. "Someday I might resume my personal hobbies, such as photography and exotic travel!”

ISEH members: Connect with Peggy through the ISEH member database. Click here to learn more about her or to build your personal profile. You can also learn more about the Goodell lab.

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