Back to All Posts

Visiting Scientist Juanita Merchant shares her passion for science

Visiting Scientist Juanita MerchantAt a special assembly on Monday, Visiting Scientist Juanita Merchant, M.D., Ph.D. told students that no matter what career they choose, it is important to love their chosen field.

“If you don’t like what you do, even making a trillion dollars won’t make you happy,” she said.

It quickly became clear that she follows her own advice.

A professor in both Internal Medicine and Molecular & Integrative Physiology at the University of Michigan, Merchant noted that math and science were always her favorite subjects in school. That early passion led her to Stanford (B.S.) and Yale (M.D., Ph.D.), and eventually to U-M, where she conducts cutting-edge research on gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcers and cancer, and works as a clinician.

For students who want to pursue careers in medicine, Merchant urged them during the assembly to do two things:  take as many non-science courses as possible to build a broad-based foundation and find a “’til death do you part” mentor.

“I strongly believe in taking as many liberal arts classes as you can,” she told students, explaining that science draws on a wide array of disciplines. “Mentors, then, help you focus your interests and give you enough information to help you know that this is the right path for you.”

Following the assembly, Merchant shared the finer points of her research and answered questions in Julie Smith’s Cellular & Microbiology class, as well as Dee Lamphear’s Anatomy & Physiology classes. She also visited Orelia Dann’s 20th Century Culture class, where she discussed a variety of topics, including genetics and Henrietta Lacks (a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more).

“Dr. Merchant was really insightful,” commented Dann. “We had a very interesting discussion about how the medical profession is crossing over into other areas, such as the food industry. It was a great example for students about how there will be careers in the future that we simply don’t know about yet, and so as they start to think about what they want to do in life, it’s important to keep their options open.”

The Visiting Scientist Endowment was founded by the Class of 2005 in memory of longtime Greenhills physics teacher Tim Pasich. The goal of the endowment is to strengthen the Greenhills science program by bringing in expert leaders in their respective scientific fields.

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.