An Interview with Dr. Sue Jinks-Robertson

Dr. Sue Jinks-Robertson is a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology and a director in the Program in Cell and Molecular Biology. She received her undergraduate degree from Agnes Scott College, a small liberal arts women’s college, where she studied biology. From there, she went to the University of Wisconson in Madison where she received a PhD in genetics. For her postdoc, Dr. Jinks-Robertson went to UChicago for 3 years, where she worked with Tom Petes on recombination. I always knew that the Jinks-Robertson lab and the Petes lab collaborated and were close, but I didn’t realize that the connection went back so far! People always say that networking is important to gain connections and build relationships, and this just shows how true that statement is. After her postdoc years, Dr. Jinks-Robertson worked at Emory for 20 years before moving to Duke in 2006 – after being recruited by none other than Dr. Petes.

When first starting out as a graduate student, Dr. Jinks-Robertson worked on bacteria. However, during this time, she became fascinated with yeast.In Dr. Pete’s lab at UChicago, she was assigned to work on recombination with yeast. She did not have experience with yeast at the time and thought she would be working with ribosomes, but she gave it her all and enjoyed the whole scientific process; after all, doing experiments is fun and like Dr. G says, it’s craftwork. “Yeast suits [her] temperament,” forming a colony in around 2 days, and while it takes a little bit longer than E. coli, yeast are more complex.

My dad, a physics professor, has always told me that he likes research a lot more than teaching, so I’m always interested in hearing what other people think. While Dr. Jinks-Robertson does like teaching, she also acknowledges how time spent teaching is time not spent in a lab, and there are only so many hours in a day. In her hours not spent in the lab, she enjoys spending time with family, working in the yard, and cooking.

To finish the interview, I asked her what advice she had for someone like me, who is just starting out in research and looking to become a better scientist. First and foremost, she said to do what excites you, because enjoying what you do is better than making a lot of money. When Dr. Jinks-Robertson was teaching genetics at Emory, a student who had a D in the class asked her for a recommendation letter for medical school. However, when she spoke with him, it turned out that his parents were the ones pushing him towards medical school, and he actually liked history the most. It seems like parents always want their kids to go to medical school, and I doubt that mindset will change anytime soon. Another piece of advice Dr. Jinks-Robertson has is to trust your instincts. I know I second guess myself often, so that is definitely something I have to work on.

I enjoyed talking to Dr. Jinks-Robertson during the interview, and I hope that one day I can be as successful as she is, doing what I love and maybe even bringing my dog with me to work (fingers crossed on that last part).

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