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Amy Wagers

March-April 2019

Amy Wagers

Photograph by Jon Chase/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications


Amy Wagers

Photograph by Jon Chase/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

As a 10-year-old, Amy Wagers knew she wanted to be a scientist, but it wasn’t until she registered as a bone-marrow donor during her senior year at Northwestern University that she decided to focus on stem cells. After receiving her Ph.D. in immunology and microbial pathogenesis from Northwestern, and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford with Irving Weismann, one of the earliest pioneers of stem-cell research, she became an associate professor of pathology and investigator at the Harvard-affiliated Joslin Diabetes Center. “I got into aging through the lens of stem-cell regulation,” she says. “There’s a linkage between the pathophysiology of aging and the pathophysiology of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes.” In 2008, Wagers moved to the new department of stem cell and regenerative biology, which she now co-chairs. “When I was a postdoc and I was applying for jobs in academia, my dad said, ‘When are you going to get out of school?’ and I said, ‘Well, hopefully never!’” If she isn’t working with students in her lab, the Forst Family professor of stem cell and regenerative biology is often found spending time with her six-year-old son, teaching or meeting with undergraduates enrolled in her course on aging—or sky-diving above Newport, Rhode Island. That practice unexpectedly became tradition when Wagers promised a colleague that if the very first paper out of her lab was published by the prestigious journal Nature, she would go skydiving to celebrate. “I was so exhilarated! Afterwards, I went to a little clam shack and had a beer and some fried clam strips and I was like, ‘I’m alive!’” Now Wagers invites graduate students whose work is accepted by high-impact publications to join her on a skydiving trip. So far, just one has accepted. 

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