Danielle Spitzer

Class of 2017
Cell and Developmental Biology
Hariharan Lab

What sparked your interest in science?
When I took my first biology class in 9th grade, I was hooked. It only took a few classes before I was certain I had finally discovered the topic I wanted to spend the rest of my life studying (it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to having a “lightbulb” moment - I just knew). It helped that I had an incredible teacher, Mr. Jay Goldberg, who made the subject riveting and who has fiercely supported me on my journey to pursue a career in science.

What attracted you to UC Berkeley?
First, the obvious factors - great research and training opportunities, and Berkeley is a beautiful place to live. But what really stood out was the collaborative environment and culture of activism. At my interview, I talked with many happy grad students who were deeply invested in both their research and the community, and that is the type of environment I wanted for my graduate studies.

What are you currently working on in the lab?
I study how cell adhesion molecules regulate epithelial growth and development in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

Describe your ultimate dream/goal for your future.
I aspire to a career as a professor in a primarily teaching-focused position. I love thinking deeply about scientific ideas, making connections between information, and discussing these things with others - especially students! I care strongly about using evidence-based and inclusive teaching strategies to support learning and combat educational inequities that contribute to the underrepresentation/exclusion of certain groups of people from STEM. While I hope my career will be a large and satisfying part of my life, my ideal future also includes plenty of time to pursue other passions, hobbies, and activities outside of work.
When I'm not in the lab, I can be found...
Socializing with friends; participating in extracurricular groups like iMCB, MGN, and SACNAS; riding my bike; cooking; or volunteering at the local dog rescue. 

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice during your first year in graduate school, what would you say?
Keep a very detailed lab notebook. Start learning how to code. And go to every departmental social event you can - it takes time and effort to build community, but having that friendship and support from your peers will make grad school so much more enjoyable.