One of the greatest perks of working in a biomedical research lab at Duke University is the exposure you have to some of the most accomplished and brightest minds in science. So you can imagine how I felt, a mere undergraduate student with only 2 semesters of college and 2 weeks of research under my belt, as I walked into the office of Dr. Marc Caron this week. Needless to say I was nervous, excited, awestruck, and intimidated all at the same time. Now I can say with absolute certainty that Dr. Caron is one of the smartest and most passionate scientists that I have come to know.
I asked Dr. Caron the basic questions: how he got into science, how he became interested in his field of research, and if he had any advice for an aspiring scientist based off his experiences. I came to learn of Dr. Caron’s impressive background. His interest in science began in the early 60s when he was attending the Laval University in his native country of Canada. It was during the time that he deemed the birth of biochemistry following the buzz of the development of the contraceptive pill and, subsequently, steroid metabolism. It was then that he decided to continue his studies in steroid metabolism and what he called “primitive biochemistry” at the University of Miami where he would receive his PhD. Following his time at the UM, Dr. Caron sought out a postdoctoral fellowship and found himself in the lab of Dr. Bob Lefkowitz at, ironically, Duke University where his research really began to evolve.
It was with Dr. Lefkowitz that Dr. Caron began to explore the realm of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which now comprise the most target form of proteins for therapeutic agents. Dr. Caron proceeded to spend his time attempting to purify one of these receptors with immense success in the 80s. It was 1986 when Dr. Caron and colleagues first purified and clone the beta 2-adrenergic receptor. It was then when he began to discover the incredible homology between receptors, which brings us to now…
Dr. Caron was always interested in the dopamine receptor, a GPCR. His subsequent and current research focuses on this receptor, specifically to attempt to elucidate the complexities behind this receptor and its signaling pathways. By manipulating these receptors in mouse models, Dr. Caron has developed models of ADHD, schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s. Without getting into the hairy details, the ultimate goal behind his research is to develop new or enhance existing drugs in order to develop more effective treatments for these of neurological disorders. Dr. Caron explained that 40-50% of drugs that target GPCRs are targeted to only 50 receptors, which leaves about 150 more to be tested! His excitement was evident throughout the entire span of the interview.
His overflowing enthusiasm for his research, I believe, drives the entire lab’s hard work and dedication. I look to him not only as a mentor or as my PI, but also as a fellow scientific mind with infinite aspirations and exploding passion. I was blown away by his accomplishments, his intelligence, and his zeal throughout his entire career leading up to today. As I walked out of his office, I knew I was in the right place and I was taking the right path in life to become a biomedical researcher. I can only hope that through my own perseverance I can one day become a scientist as extraordinary as Dr. Marc Caron.