Stem Cell Scientist Spotlight with Carolyn Hudak

by Irina Cashen

Matrix: Tell us about your outfit Carolyn. You look like a bumblebee.

Carolyn: Well, I started wearing yellow on Fridays when I was a graduate student, because I’d started losing track of time due to being in the lab all day every day, including weekends. Weeks would go by with every day being the same, and I thought – “Hey Friday is a day that people usually look forward to (not me because I have to work Saturday and Sunday) – I should celebrate it!”  Now my colleagues Max and Curtis also wear yellow on Friday. They liked the idea, and I don’t even have to remind them anymore. They just always do that! For a while we tried to make every day a color, but that only lasted a couple weeks because we lost track of which day was what color….

Matrix: I’m liking it, Yellow Fridays. We should make this is an HSCI-wide tradition. On the science side of things, what are you working on right now?

Carolyn:  I’m currently working on a project trying to identify novel peptides that are significant in metabolic or biologic function. The one we’ve studied the closest is involved in the breakdown of triglycerides and fatty acids, but there are some important peptides that haven’t been well characterized because they’re hidden in the genome in places we haven’t been able to look at before. This project is in collaboration with Dr. John Rinn’s lab - whose specialty is in long noncoding RNA’s. He’s identified a bunch of them in mice, hidden in IncRNA’s, so we picked up some of those that are important in humans too.

Matrix: And what’s it like in Cowan Lab?

Carolyn: It’s a really friendly and collaborative environment. We all use the same techniques but answer different questions. This is nice because it’s not a super competitive type of environment, which is something that appealed to me initially when joining this lab. People here work together and help each other, which also goes along with Chad’s personality. He fosters that type of environment – he’s very interested in helping people learn science.

Matrix: No wonder your lab always looks so happy at cookie hour! And here I thought it was the cookies…. alright so wild card question: if you were a fictional character from either a book or a movie, who would you be?

Carolyn: This is an ongoing joke but, I would be Hagrid from Harry Potter. I love animals and if I had zero responsibilities and didn’t have to make money I would adopt large, mythical creatures and take care of them. I would also like to live in a hut, and I’m good at lifting heavy things….

Matrix: Who knew? See, this is why we have these FAQ’s, so we can learn all about our colleagues’ hidden eccentricities. What’s something else folks don’t know about you?

Carolyn: I do trapeze with my husband; we’ve been into it for about five years. It’s a hobby we picked up at Berkeley. There’s a pretty big community of circus schools out in San Francisco and Oakland. It’s a tight community though, so a lot of people from there also know the circus folks here. It’s really fun, and it’s trending now! It’s pretty challenging but you can really work hard to get better at it.

See also: Spotlight