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Five Questions with Margaret McCarthy, Membership Engagement Chair for Section V (Neuroscience)

As part of our modernized volunteer governance structure, we now have Membership Engagement Chairs for all 24 sections to support two-way communication with Section members and help grow Section membership. These chairs serve two-year terms as members of their Section Steering Committee.

woman with blonde hair and glasses in a white button shirt
AAAS Member Margaret McCarthy.

Margaret McCarthy is the Membership Engagement Chair for Section V, Neuroscience, and is serving until the end of 2023. Learn more about her background and what she is most excited about her role below!

  1. Please share a little bit about yourself. Where do you live and where do you work? What is your official title/job?

I live in downtown Baltimore Maryland within walking distance of my workplace, the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I have been here coming on 30 years, starting as an Assistant Professor in the Fall of 1993. I have held a variety of leadership positions including the inaugural Director of the Graduate Program in Life Sciences with 8 PhD-granting programs and an Office of Postdoctoral Scholars before I transitioned to being the Chair of the Department of Pharmacology in 2011. Most recently I again became an inaugural director, this time of the University of Maryland – Medicine Institute of Neuroscience Discovery (UM-MIND) which was the culmination of a multiyear effort.  Our vision is to promote translational research in the neurosciences by co-locating foundational and clinically leaning faculty focusing on neurodevelopment, neuropsychiatric diseases, brain injury and neurodegeneration.

  1. Why are you a member of AAAS?

I have been a continuous member since I was a post-doctoral fellow for two main reasons; 1) it is a great way to keep up on the major trends in all of science, from political influences to major new discoveries and everything in between, and 2) organizations such as AAAS are powerful advocates for science to both the public and government funding agencies and so need to be supported.

  1. What excites you the most about being a Section Engagement Chair and why?

I hope to spread enthusiasm for science as well as the importance of supporting organizations such as AAAS which I think too many people simply take for granted as always being there, without realizing how much they do both behind and in front of the scenes.  It is our obligation as scientists to support our professional societies, both the large-scale broad-based ones like AAAS and those smaller and more targeted to our particular interests.

  1. What advice would you give a student a or postdoc member in your field if you could?

Persevere. A career in science is hard.  It requires decades of training (bachelors, PhD and/or MD, post-doc, residency, 2nd postdoc…), relentless criticism (i.e. reviews of manuscripts, grants, promotion packages…), many failures (my hypothesis was wrong, AGAIN…) and long delayed financial security.  But if you really want it and your circumstances allow you to endure, the rewards are beyond what you can imagine. Being a contributor to the creation of new knowledge about how the brain works is about as gratifying as it gets.   

  1. What are your favorite hobbies and pastimes?

Gardening, both in the pots around my row home where I grow trees and under water in my saltwater aquarium where I grow corals.


Wendy Li

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