If you ask Biology Professor Cintia Hongay, she’ll say something like, “Biology encompasses all the sciences. All biological processes are multi-faceted and you need to understand the chemistry and the physics underlying them. The complexity and inter-connectivity that makes all living organisms work is absolutely fascinating.”
And she’s done her fair share of research to prove her point.
Her most recent research in evolutionary biology and genetics uncovered the function of a yeast homolog in multicellular species. Hongay found that IME4, a highly evolutionarily-conserved yet unstudied gene, is involved in Notch signaling in Drosophila, commonly known as fruit flies. Notch signaling is important in determining the cell fates and differentiation pathways of multicellular species, like humans.
“I am excited because the implications of this finding are interesting in evolutionary terms as well as molecular, genetic and cell biology terms. It opens up many venues of research and funding for my research program,” she says.
Hongay is an old pro with a microscope. In fact, receiving a microscope for her sixth birthday was what first interested her in biology.
“I was always interested in life sciences from a very young age,” she explains. “From the moment I got my microscope, I knew what I wanted to do career-wise.”
Born in La Plata, Argentina, Hongay majored in biochemistry at a university in Argentina and then continued her studies at SUNY New Paltz in New York State, the Universita Nazionale di Cagliari in Italy, and finally Suffolk University, where she completed her B.S. in biology.
After graduation, she went straight to graduate school, earning a Ph.D. in biological and biomedical sciences from Harvard Medical School and then moving on to postdoctoral training at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It was there that she began her research of IME4 in yeast and fruit flies.
Having the opportunity to study in three different countries not only made Hongay proficient in three languages (Spanish, English and Italian), but also allows her to bring a multicultural perspective to the classroom and lab. She currently teaches freshman biology lab, cell and molecular biology and molecular biology lab.
“I enjoy teaching lab-based courses because they foster a lot of interaction with the students and allow me to explain concepts much more in depth,” she explains. “I’m also excited about teaching freshman biology because it is the entry port to the biology curriculum and should engage, excite, interest and keep students’ curiosities alive.”
Teaching, along with performing her research, gives Hongay what she calls “an irresistible combination.”
She says, “I live to teach and to do research. They are the two passions that fuel my existence. I couldn’t imagine myself in any other job.”
Professor Cintia Hongay (pictured right)