Meet UNMC Scientist Laureate Shelley Smith, Ph.D.

May 03, 2011

UNMC researcher Shelley Smith, Ph.D., answers questions about her work, life and interests.

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Shelley Smith, Ph.D.
NOTE: This profile is the last in a series highlighting the 24 researchers who were honored Monday at a ceremony for UNMC's 2010 Scientist Laureate, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator award recipients.

  • Name: Shelley Smith, Ph.D.
  • Title: professor of pediatrics, professor and director of developmental neuroscience, Munroe Meyer Institute
  • Joined UNMC: 1999
  • Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Describe your research in laymen's terms.

Our goal is to define the genetic changes that contribute to language and learning disorders in children.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?

Understanding the genes and how they work to cause these conditions should lead to better means of diagnosis and treatment, and also reveal some of the developmental pathways for specialized cognitive functions. ... We also will learn more about the effects of changes in gene expression on development.

Name someone at UNMC who provides vital contributions to your success and briefly describe how they help you.

The administration of MMI and pediatrics has been tremendously supportive, but the people who have been truly vital are the people I work with in the lab: Judy Kenyon, Denise Hoover and James Askew. They are amazingly creative and dedicated.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I have two daughters who have been teaching me about their two "niche" sports -- ultimate frisbee and parkour.
  • My younger daughter's eighth grade science teacher thought she needed some inspiration, so he arranged for her to work for Drs. Tom Rosenquist and Dan Monaghan (back when students that age were allowed in labs). She injected eggs with homocysteine to look for cardiac defects. She thought the research was cool but wouldn't crack an egg for months afterward.
  • Although I started at UNMC in 1999, I actually started working with the clinical geneticists in pediatrics and MMI in 1987, going out to the outreach genetics clinics with Drs. Bruce Buehler and Brad Schaefer. The last clinic I worked on was in Scottsbluff about a year ago.

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