Open book . . . Leanne G. Ahronian, GSBS 4th year

February 23, 2011

Each Wednesday, the Daily Voice will introduce you to a student or resident at UMass Medical School. We’ve asked our subjects to answer a few questions that might reveal a little of their personalities. If you know someone who you’d like to see profiled, let us know at


Leanne G. Ahronian from Holden, Mass., is a GSBS 4th year studying in the laboratory of Brian Lewis, PhD, associate professor of molecular medicine. She’s researching the mechanisms of liver disease.

Why did you choose UMass Medical School? 

I chose UMMS because I wanted a school with a large number of great labs in which to do my thesis work. I didn’t feel like I would be trapped into choosing a lab simply because it was one of only a few accepting students.

Describe yourself in six words or fewer. 

A slightly outdoorsy homebrewing cancer biologist 

If you were stranded on a deserted island, name three things you would want. 

A Kindle, a homebrewing kit and a fishing pole 

If you could have dinner with a famous person, living or dead, who would that be and why? 

I would love to cook dinner with Julia Child! She seemed like a very cool, fun-loving lady who I could certainly learn a thing or two from. 

What did you say when you first had an experiment work out exactly as planned? 

I’m not sure this has actually happened to me. But when I get clean data, I usually parade around showing my labmates how pretty it is until they get annoyed with me. 

What is the most interesting or challenging job (paid or unpaid) you’ve ever had and what did you learn about yourself? 

I worked at Merck Pharmaceuticals on a project that made a quality control procedure efficient enough that the department could lay off three individuals. While I enjoyed doing those experiments, I realized that I hated having to put business ahead of science and I promised myself I wouldn’t be in that situation again. 

What would your fellow students be surprised to learn about you? 

Every morning I have frozen waffles for breakfast and I toast them with my eyes. 

If UMass Medical School had not been an option, what would you be doing right now? 

If science wasn’t an option, I probably would have apprenticed at a brewery, maybe eventually graduating from the Master Brewer Program (like the PhD for beer). 

If you could change the world as a scientist, what would you like to do? 

I would love to be able to improve the public’s scientific knowledge so that we could have better informed discussions on science policy. Don’t ask me how to do that. 

Most surprising thing you’ve found out about graduate school?

I have more of a life outside of lab than I thought I would . . . sometimes. 

Most surprising thing you’ve discovered about Worcester? 

As a local I think I have a unique perspective on this question. Worcester is actually a really great city for those willing to participate. The one thing that prevents Worcester from being truly great is the attitude of its residents—the people of Worcester too often choose not to participate in its activities. When people want something to succeed, it does.