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5 Things About Me: Neurobiologist Orion Furmanski

Outside of his research, AAAS member Orion Furmanski loves to play guitar and bass. He was in a rock band composed of scientists while in graduate school at the University of Miami. He is shown here playing bass for a benefit concert. (Photo: Orion Furmanski)

Orion Furmanski
Postdoctoral fellow, second year
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

Background:  I work in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  My background is in neuroscience, and specifically the neurobiology of pain.  My postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Roger Johns, is interested in the role of post synaptic scaffolding proteins in neuronal signaling processes that give rise to the experience of pain.

Question 1: Why did you become a researcher/engineer/scientist?
Answer: I thought science was fun, and I was pretty good at working with the concepts.  My parents raised me on a steady diet of science/nature programming (3-2-1 Contact, Nature, Nova, Cosmos, Wild America, Newton's Apple, Connections).  University biology classes challenged me and inspired me like nothing else.  Doing undergraduate research set the hook. 

Question 2: What fuels your passion for your work? Tell us why you chose your particular field of study, why did it grab your interest and fuel your curiosity?
Answer: I originally wanted to do my doctoral research on using stem cells to repair spinal cord injury.  People with spinal cord injuries have pain right now.  Developing better therapies for pain in the interim seemed like a more tractable research goal.  It is deeply gratifying to have become a confidante among my family, friends, and even patients who are affected by pain problems.

Question 3: Tell us a short story about your childhood
Answer: We used to go to my father's parents' farm for family gatherings when I was a kid growing up in Indiana. One day when I was maybe nine years old, someone caught the grand-daddy of all bluegill in the pond on the farm.  We brought it back to the house in a big pail of water.  It was barely moving at all.  I felt sorry for the big guy, so when nobody was looking, I sneaked out to the garage and worked the fish's jaw to force water through its gills.  It came back to life!  That was probably my first "wet lab" science experience.

Question 4: What's your favorite food? Got a sweet tooth? Caffeine junkie? Are you a chef or a restaurateur?
Definitely a coffee junkie.  My favorite coffee is Trung Nguyen Legendee Classic imported from Vietnam.  It is chemically treated to taste like the (in)famous "weasel poo coffee", a.k.a. Kopi Luwak. Really, they are civets and not weasels. Legendee Classic is chocolatey and delicious, and costs about $35 a pound... a fraction of what the real Kopi Luwak would set you back.  

Question 5: What's playing on your iPod/music player?
Answer: I listen to a mix of classic jazz, indie rock, and podcasts at work.  Anything the bassist Paul Chambers touched was magic: Davis, Coltrane, Kelley, Adderley, Montgomery, and so on. Podcasts from Science, Nature, PNAS, NPR's Radiolab and Science Friday, among others.  Now and then, Rudresh Mahanthappa's "Codebook" comes up.  I found that one in the media reviews section of Science. I don't just read it for the articles.  *wink, wink*

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