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#IAmNYAS: Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Learn how Academy Member Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata, PhD, finds adventure in challenges, both in and out of the lab.

Published March 02, 2016

#IAmNYAS: Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Academy Member Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata, PhD, got her degree in Physics from Brown University. Originally hailing from the beautiful coastal city of Split, Croatia, she is currently based in NYC working as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at New York University and is relishing in the excitement that her adopted home has to offer.

We wanted to know a bit more about Mirna's research-the rewards and the challenges-as well as how she stays active and engaged in new hobbies all year long.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on understanding how neural circuits process information-you can say I am "cracking neural circuits." The human nervous system is extremely complex, so it is paradoxically more profitable to ask these big questions using small model organisms. My research project envisions developing a specialized microscope that can image neural activity in a freely behaving fruit fly larva, "reading its mind" as it makes decisions crucial to its survival.

What is one of the biggest challenges you're facing right now?

My research now involves developing new technologies and utilizing electronics and optics in a novel way to build a very sophisticated microscope. It is a challenge, but also a great adventure.

Who is your biggest science inspiration?

Nikola Tesla. He energized a wave of invention during the late 19th and early 20th century and continues to inspire engineers today.

How do you like to keep busy when you're not in the lab?

Since I moved to New York City, I started ice-skating at Chelsea Piers and at the Central Park Wollman Rink, I sail on the Hudson, tap-dance in the West Village, and skateboard in the many parks in the City. I have one activity for each season! I find it exciting to start from scratch and pick up a new skill.

What has been one of the most rewarding moments of your career?

The most rewarding moment of my career was when my graduate work in experimental physics, which straddled the border between biophysics and nanotechnology, was featured online. In my current postdoctoral work, I transitioned to neuroscience and my recent publication got featured in Ronald Calabrese's editorial, "Chemotaxis: In Search of Lost Scent." Being able to tell a story about my research and my results to non-scientists made it so much more important and far-reaching. I think that good science needs to be made accessible to everyone.

Why did you become a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences?

I like the opportunity to communicate my science and share ideas with other scientists and science enthusiasts who may not necessarily be actively involved with my field. Working with and being inspired by scientists who feature varied skillsets and backgrounds accelerates our research on big problems.

Inspired by Mirna's enthusiasm for sharing scientific ideas with others? Consider signing up for our Scientists Teaching Science Online Course, an opportunity that will equip you with the latest techniques for teaching science in dynamic and exciting ways to students of all ages.

Read more #IAmNYAS profiles here.