Catherine Dulac

Continuing our recognition of the importance of mentorship, this WiSE Wednesday we honor neuroscientist Catherine Dulac for both her “conventional” scientific successes and her dedication to supporting her colleagues and trainees. Dulac was born and raised in France. After receiving a PhD in developmental biology from the University of Paris, she accepted a postdoctoral position in Nobel laureate Richard Axel’s laboratory at Columbia University. Here, she discovered the first family of mammalian pheromone receptors, a revolutionary finding as the role of pheromones in mammals has been contentious. Following this exciting discovery, her career took off – she took a position at Harvard in 1996 and quickly climbed the ranks, gaining full professorship in 2001 and serving as chair of Harvard’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. Her lab she uses diverse techniques (e.g. molecular, genetic, electrophysiological) to investigate innate social behaviors in mice at multiple levels (molecular, cellular, and systems). One branch of her research expands upon her postdoctoral discovery to further investigate the roles of pheromones in mammalian brain development. Her second branch of research looks at genomic imprinting in the brain, an exciting emerging field.

Last week, Dulac visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), where we were honored to host her for a fun, yet informative breakfast, in which she told us about her approach to mentoring, which emphasizes empowering lab members (e.g. letting leaving postdocs take their projects with them) and taking pride in their successes. Key her lab’s culture is openness – she encourages everyone to share their thoughts and ideas (even in disagreement), regardless of their seniority. After giving a labwide seminar on the "Neurobiology of Social Behavior Circuits", she met students and post-docs again in a less formal setting over lunch, where she shared advice on time management and making the transition to handling your own lab. It’s great to see accomplished scientists take the time to help teach the skills not taught in traditional curriculums.

Dulac is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). You can learn more about her work here: https://www.dulaclab.com

Photo credits: Harvard, Jue Xiang

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