Life Lines

Congratulations to Patricia Villalta, a graduate student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, our final winner of the “What’s New in Comparative Physiology?” t-shirt contest! Here are her reasons for being excited about going to this year’s Experimental Biology meeting:

“Dear Dr. Dolittle,

Every year, I get excited about the Experimental Biology meeting because unexpected opportunities are bound to happen. For example, this past year, I attended for the first time the Science Policy Committee’s Symposium “How to Become An Advocate: A Workshop for Scientists”, where I discovered that there were many opportunities for people of all levels of science to get involved in science advocacy. I now advocate for science every chance I get and write to my senators and representatives on a consistent basis. In addition to being exposed to a new interest, I was also able to meet and interact with the Chair of the APS Public Affairs Committee, and we have maintained correspondence after the EB meeting. Also, I took full advantage of my time with members of the APS Respiration Section throughout the meeting and offered help at the different society functions. This allowed me to network with everyone from the APS President to corporate sponsors. I was asked by the incoming Chair of the Respiration Section to become Chair of the Trainee Subcommittee. I also attended “Meet the Editors” of the APS journals, volunteered to serve as a guide for high school students and teachers attending EB, and visited the NIH for a campus tour and seminars. By the end of the meeting, I had seized every unexpected opportunity, and for a fledgling like me, that makes EB a whirlwind experience.

Similarly, the EB experience allows me the chance to talk about comparative physiology with the greats in the field. I like to spark conversations about my favorite topic- how comparative physiology is making a comeback in the field after years of thinking that other routes, such as DNA and signaling pathways, were the key to solving the unknowns in the basic medical sciences. It is exciting to be part of the next generation of scientists who are being trained to think about the physiology of a problem and to be able to paint a clear, overview picture of what may have gone wrong. For example, my work focuses on mechanisms of edema formation in the lung. Our understanding of edema progression in the lung, as put forth by Dr. Nathan Staub, was that fluid accumulation started in the interstitium around larger vessels, and once the lymphatic removal of this fluid was overwhelmed, alveolar flooding ensued. We now appreciate that activation of certain calcium channels can cause direct alveolar flooding without any evidence of peribrochovascular interstitial edema. Our understanding of the physiology has been turned on its head, and its now up to us future scientists to truly understand how this may occur, and that in itself is tremendously exciting.

I hope I get to meet you this year at Experimental Biology!

Respectfully yours,

Patricia Villalta”

Thank you Patricia for your letter. Don’t forget to wear your t-shirt at the meeting for a chance to win free coffee!