Mary MacDougall, Ph.D.
University of Alabama at Birmingham
School of Dentistry
Background: AAAS Fellow Mary MacDougall is Associate Dean for Research and Professor at the University of Alabama (UAB) School of Dentistry (SOD) where she holds the James R. Rosen Chair in Dental Research. She also serves as the founding director of the UAB Global Center for Craniofacial Oral and Dental Disorders (GC-CODED), which provides a forum for the diagnosis, treatment, gene discovery, development of therapeutics, training and patient education. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms associated with tooth formation, dental tissue-specific cytodifferentiation, extracellular matrix formation and mineralization, tooth stem cells, odontogenetic tumors, and human genetic dental diseases.
Question 1: Why did you become a researcher/engineer/scientist?
Answer: I always liked to ask questions and find the answers. As a scientist, I get to do this daily. Even better, I get paid for it. A favorite saying is: "If I knew all the answers, there would be no questions to ask."
Question 2: What fuels your passion for your work?
Answer: I think discovery is really what drives my passion for science. I tell my students that finding the answer to a question or problem for the first time is addicting. Discovery is the drug of choice for scientists.
Question 3: Tell us a short story about your childhood.
Answer: As a child, I performed professionally with the San Diego Opera Company and the summer Starlight Musical Theater. I got to meet or perform with a number of icons including Beverly Sills, Plácido Domingo, Bob Hope, Liberace, Janet Blair, Regis Philbin, and even Ronald Reagan (who was governor of California). In my third-grade picture, I have bleached blond hair having just finished a summer tour with the Sound of Music.
Question 4: Tell us about a hobby or passion outside of work.
Answer: I like creating artistic things. I find it a great way to release stress and just chill. I have done or made just about everything and anything: stained glass, paintings, sewing, decorating, crafting and beading.
Question 5: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: My mentorship of others at all levels of their career development. This could be a high school student trying to figure out if science is their passion, a college student working in a laboratory for the first time, or a graduate/dental student finding answers to real scientific questions. I tell students to trust in themselves to achieve goals and career paths they aspire to even when initially they may not think it is possible. People surprise themselves when they don't limit themselves.