A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Science Is Fun


Anatomy of a PhD candidate.

The daughter of a teacher and an engineer, Vérida Léandre PhD’17 has found her calling in Brown’s Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology, where she’s researching how body fat works. As a doctoral student in the lab of Edith Mathiowitz, PhD, professor of medical science and of engineering, Léandre, 26, is studying how brown adipose tissue—a fat that human babies and hibernating mammals burn to keep warm—can help adults lose weight.

With her “army of undergraduates” as lab assistants, she implants proteins into rats that encourage stem cells to grow into brown instead of white adipose tissue, which stores energy, and makes us fat. The technique, if it works, could become “a cell-based therapy for obesity,” Léandre says, though she’s a long way from that goal. “I’m sometimes frustrated about my relative lack of progress,” she says. Yet she’s already been presenting her research, including at a conference in Scotland last year. “It felt really cool to be part of the global scientific community,” she says. And she finds daily satisfaction training students. “I take almost every opportunity to teach,” as a TA, mentor, and volunteer math and science instructor in a Providence after-school program. “If I can explain something to a 10-year-old, I can explain it to anyone,” she says.


Comments are closed.