Meet a Local Scientist: November 2017

Dr. Jason Sheltzer

Dr. Jason Sheltzer

Where do you live?

Mineola, sometimes. But mostly in my lab at Cold Spring Harbor.

Where do you work and what is your position?

I'm a cancer biologist at CSHL.

Describe your work

We study the genetic differences between normal cells and cancer cells. We're particularly interested in aneuploidy. This is a condition frequently found in cancer in which cells gain or lose entire pieces of DNA, like you see in Down syndrome.

Where did you go to school? Describe your path to your current position.

I went to college at Princeton. I started out generally interested in science, but didn't know what I wanted to major it. Then, in freshman year physics, they taught us all of physics that had been done up until 1920. In freshman chemistry, they taught us all of chemistry that had been done up until 1950. In freshman biology, they taught us about experiments that were going on that week. So it seemed like biology was the field to study where there was the most left to explore!

After that, I went to grad school at MIT. They say that getting an education at MIT is like trying to take a drink from a firehose. It's scary and sometimes painful, but if you're thirsty, it's definitely worth it.

What is the best part of your job?

Every day, I could discover something that no one else in all of human history knew before.

Describe a typical day at work for you.

These days — I wake up and check Twitter to see if the world ended while I was asleep. If it didn't, I head to lab. In lab, I spend time writing papers, analyzing data, meeting with students, doing experiments myself, and Gchatting with my partner, who sadly works in Manhattan.

Why do you love science?

It provides an infinite capacity to help other people and better the human condition.

What advice would you give to people interested in a career in science?

Don't be intimidated, no one actually knows what they're doing. Just work hard and the rest will follow.

What is your favorite scientific fact?

We are made of stardust — all of the carbon, nitrogen, and heavy atoms in our bodies were created in the hearts of stars.

Tell us a bit about yourself that is not related to science.

I have a wonderful partner who works as a software engineer in the city.

What is your favorite thing about Long Island?

Efficient and on-time public transportation; Highly-responsive local government that acts with honesty and integrity; Traffic-free commuting.