February 10, 2020 | Abby Liu
A MSS alumna and scientist talks about her research in neurodegenerative diseases and why the arts matter.
Dr. Eva Moroko is a graduate of Mustard Seed School, McNair Academic High School, Seton Hall University (BS Biochemistry), and the University of California Irvine (MS and Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences, Neurobiology.) She’s currently a post-doctoral research fellow at NYU Langone.
Tell us a little bit about your experience at MSS.
One of the things I love most about MSS is the emphasis placed on the arts. This is essential for developing the whole person and critical thinking skills. At MSS, everyone had to learn music. We all had opportunities to explore and build in the Shared Space. This fostered imagination and creativity.
You’re a scientist. Why are the arts important to you?
It’s a horrible misconception to say the arts don’t matter and that we should be pushing for STEM-related fields only. As a scientist I’ll tell you a secret… science is art! From the way our bodies are built to have a purpose to that iPhone everyone carries. It’s all in the design. We also have to communicate science, and we do so through art. For example, that figure we design to show you that we discovered how neurons communicate is art. I will forever be extremely grateful for the emphasis on the arts at MSS.
Tell us a bit about your research.
For my dissertation I studied the genetically inherited neurodegenerative disease, Huntington’s disease, and a possible way to manipulate its progression. Huntington’s is caused by a single mutation in a single gene that results in selective degeneration in an area of your brain that is important for multiple cognitions and voluntary motor movement. While caused by one gene, there are many things that can contribute to how the disease progresses. I studied the different components of processes in the brain to help us further understand disease and develop therapeutics for disease intervention.
What compelled you to study science?
My mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was young. That motivated me to study science, although I didn’t realize its influence until later in life. I first realized that I had an affinity for science when I won the science award at Mustard Seed School in sixth or seventh grade. My teachers saw something in me before I did!
What do you enjoy about being a scientist?
Being a scientist is a lot of fun. Science is like a huge puzzle that we only have a few pieces of, but we find ways to make the overall picture more complete. It’s challenging but exciting, too.
How are you a change maker?
My goal is to help us understand neurodegenerative disease at the lowest levels, the core. The basic research I have done, and will continue to do, will lay the foundation for effective treatments in the future.
How do you serve others?
Mentoring and teaching are important to me. Throughout my education I have mentored many different types of students in science, ranging from high school to fellow graduate students and post-docs. I hope to spark joy and excitement in others. To encourage them to pursue careers in research and science.
What difference did Mustard Seed make in your life?
I truly believe that the school taught me how to be a good person and to work hard. I’m constantly trying to lead by example and treat others how I hope to be treated. The faith lessons that I learned provide me with a strong moral compass that guides me through life. And, as I mentioned before, my teachers taught me to see art and music in everything. To use critical thinking and design in everyday life. These lessons have served me well!
What do you do when you’re not in the lab?
Archery was my biggest pasttime during my graduate work. I shot in several national events on the UC Irvine Archery team. I also love hiking and outdoor adventuring. I fondly remember the MSS field trip to the Spruce Lake Outdoor Education Center!