Q: What attracted you to the field of autophagy?
I was studying cell death and observed large numbers of autophagic structures in dying cells during Drosophila development. The genome sequence of Drosophila was approaching completion, and this prompted me to study if the yeast autophagy genes were conserved in Drosophila and determine how they may function in a higher animal genetic model.
Q: What do you consider to be the most exciting recent discovery in autophagy?
We have recently identified a genetic relationship between the selection of either mitochondria or ER for clearance by autophagy within a single cell in the context of a physiological model of developmentally programmed autophagy. This study reveals an interesting mechanism for how these organelles communicate to determine autophagic cargo selection.
Q: What is the career achievement you are most proud of?
Training and mentoring a large number of excellent individuals from diverse backgrounds that have pursued careers related to their interests in science.
Q: Why do you think networks like WIA are beneficial?
Such networks are important for multiple reasons. They help to increase the diversity of individuals in science by enabling broader access to information and tools for those with less resources. They enable people to listen to lectures, ask questions, and develop relationships with scientists even though they may be in remote locations and unable to attend conferences. Importantly, they provide a platform to develop programming based on the needs of a larger and more diverse community.
Eric H. Baehrecke was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Baehrecke obtained his B.S. from University of Massachusetts - Amherst, Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation at the University of Utah during his postdoctoral studies. He was a faculty member of the University of Maryland from 1995-2007, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His laboratory studies the regulation and function of autophagy (self-eating) in Drosophila, mice and mammalian cells.