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5 Things About Me: Microbiologist Matthew Henn

An experiment in high school biology inspired Matthew Henn to pursue a career in microbiology. (Photo: Matthew Henn)
Matthew Henn
Director Viral Genomics
Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard

I am interested in microbiology and microbial genomics that spans both environmental and infectious disease applications.

Question 1: Why did you choose to become a microbiologist?

Answer: It started with an experiment my high school biology teacher had our class do. He brought in a set of petri dishes and had us perform an experiment involving dirty hands and patience. Some students washed their hands before inoculating the dishes, others washed but didn't dry, and others left their mark without washing. A couple of days later, I was blown away by what transpired; something invisible materialized into this totally dynamic landscape of crazy diversity. That inspired me to learn about what you can't always see. It also taught me to make sure my hands are dry after washing them; it's amazing what a little water can spawn.

Question 2: What are you most proud of in your work?
Answer: Knowing that each discovery may someday make someone's life a little better.

Question 3: Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue.
Answer: A future where energy comes from biofuels and other renewables represents a tremendous opportunity for better health and a stronger economy. Let's hope the many factors that must align to make this a reality coalesce in the near term. In the interim, put to use the most accessible biofuel of all, your body. Hop on a bicycle and immediately achieve infinity miles per gallon; it might also help the obesity epidemic at the same time.

Question 4: Share a favorite book and why you love it.
"The Milagro Beanfield War." John Nichols delivers with incredibly whit and humor an insightful commentary on human nature and how we overcome the challenges life presents.  The main character's simple solution to a perplexing problem and the complex reactions it ignites says so much about every person's daily life and about how something small can transform something much bigger.

Question 5: Share a web link/video/blog etc. that you found that really excites you and why.
Answer: John West Commercial: Man Fights Bear for Fish
The passion to succeed in one's endeavor and to always be resourceful are admirable qualities.

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An experiment in high school biology inspired Matthew Henn to pursue a career in microbiology. (Photo: Matthew Henn)
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