In the Lab with Sharona Gordon

September 1, 2016

One of a series in which a Dana Alliance member is asked about daily life in the laboratory and outside interests.

Sharona E. Gordon, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics and the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Washington. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of General Physiology. Her lab studies the molecular mechanisms of activation and regulation of transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channels, which control body temperature, as well as heat and pain sensations.

How did you become interested in neuroscience?

My early interest in science stemmed from watching David Attenborough exploring the natural world and from Carl Sagan exploring our universe on public television. I was lucky enough to meet an outstanding neuroscientist, Anita Zimmerman, when I was an undergraduate in her lab and continued working with her in graduate school. Anita’s passion for sensory transduction got me hooked on trying to understand how we make sense of the world around us.

If you hadn’t become a neuroscientist what other career would you have pursued?

I would be some other kind of academic. I love learning new things more than anything and I love sharing knowledge with others.

If you could have lunch with any person, alive or deceased, who would it be and why?

My grandmother was the strongest person I’ve ever met. She died when I was in my early 20s and I wasn’t wise enough at that point to ask her deep questions about her experiences. I would love the opportunity to meet her again now that I am a more fully developed adult.

What do you do over the weekend as a change of pace from a long week in the lab?

I play with my four kids and two dogs and ride my recumbent trike to breweries near and far with my partner.

Who is your role model?

I don’t have one role model, but there are many people I try and emulate in small ways. Temple Grandin might come closest to a professional role model.

What encouraging words would you give to young women considering a career in neuroscience?

Only your microenvironment matters. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and enjoy the journey.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

People are surprised that I see myself as very shy and introverted. It’s a useful lesson to see that you don’t need to feel confident in social situations in order to navigate them successfully.