5 questions with… postdoctoral fellow, research advocate Lynn Ulatowski

Lynn UlatowskiLast month, Lynn Ulatowski joined students and postdoctoral researchers from across the country on Capitol Hill as part of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Hill Day.

There, they explained the impact of their work to legislators—and urged them to vote in favor of increased funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Such funding would directly impact many researchers at Case Western Reserve University and, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Ulatowski knows how important that is.

As part of the experience, she worked with a team that met with nine members of Congress from Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Throughout the day, the researchers explained the importance of basic science research, and why funding is so critical.

“Everybody wants the quick fix or the fast cure or the end result, and they don’t realize the foundation of the biomedical basic science research. It’s really necessary for all those big discoveries,” Ulatowski said. “I think that that goes overlooked by the politicians. They just don’t understand it [because] they don’t have the time or manpower to realize that.”

At Case Western Reserve, Ulatowski researches Vitamin E transport in the lab of Associate Professor of Nutrition Danny Manor. Because antioxidants can prevent cellular damage, and Vitamin E is a major antioxidant in the body, understanding how it moves can be crucial to learning more about how it can prevent neurodegeneration. Advancements in Vitamin E transport could aid patients with such diseases as Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Down syndrome.

Their work illustrates how basic science research can be applied to specific diseases.

Lynn Ulatowski with Sherrod Brown
The Cavs played Game 4 in the NBA Finals while Ulatowski was on Capitol Hill. She and Sen. Sherrod Brown posed with Cavs gear during their meeting.

Through Hill Day, Ulatowski hopes researchers can help legislators see how basic science research can have far-reaching effects.

“It was so fulfilling because this is something I can do to do my small part to help research, which is something I love,” she said. “One of the things that I took home from there was that no one was against research. They all had positive acceptance of the importance of research.”

Ulatowski first got involved with research advocacy last year, when she participated in a local version of Hill Day, joining students and postdoctoral researchers in conversations with legislators in their home states.

When she first heard about the local version of Hill Day, Ulatowski was interested by the prospect of the new experience. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology provided her with training and speaking points to address when meeting with the legislators.

“It was just a good experience to be able to go to the offices to see what your freedoms are and what your rights are,” she said. “They basically said, ‘We’re working for you, so we want you to come here and have a voice.’”

Ulatowski plans to continue advocating for research funding at the next local ASBMB district meetings in August.

Learn more about Ulatowski in this week’s five questions.

1. What technology do you think we should have, but don’t…yet?

We have it at some level, but I think we need to concentrate on more sustainable energy, like solar or wind power.

2. What was the most challenging part of your education?

Because I was a non-traditional student—I went back to school after working and having a child—just balancing personal life and school.

3. What popular icon do you most identify with? Why?

I’m not sure I identify with him, but Jon Stewart because I think he’s done wonders for educating and informing a generation of young people about politics in a very humorous and intelligent manner.

4. If you could live in any other time period, which would it be?

I’m going to choose coming over with Christopher Columbus, just to explore and discover, because I’m a scientist and that’s what we do.

5. What’s you’re favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

The people. I’ve been here a long time, so I made a lot of friendships and collaborations. There are a lot of intelligent people. There’s always a good resource here—a personal or professional resource.