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A career-defining discovery

The importance of conversation and friendship in scientific progress

Watch the film 7 Minutes

“The person in front of you, whoever they are, could have some piece of knowledge that becomes the key to the puzzle that you're trying to put together”

Gina Poe, Ph.D.

A career-defining discovery

The importance of conversation and friendship in scientific progress

Watch the film 7 Minutes

“The person in front of you, whoever they are, could have some piece of knowledge that becomes the key to the puzzle that you're trying to put together”

Gina Poe, Ph.D.



While Gina Poe was a junior professor at the University of Michigan, she discovered the importance of conversation and friendship in scientific progress.

Gina started her lab with one big idea: that REM sleep not only writes new memories but also erases information you don’t need anymore. However, she had no idea how to show that this was true. Then she met computational neuroscientist, Victoria Booth.

“Like me, she was energized by big questions. I immediately loved that about her.”

Gina Poe, Ph.D.

Gina and Victoria started to meet two or three times a week. Not to work. Just to talk. It was in one of these meetings that Gina first mentioned her conundrum to Victoria. It was the spark that she needed. Victoria was similarly intrigued by the problem and, together, they built and tested a model that solved the mystery. By carving out the time to develop a relationship first and allowing the conversation to meander, they found the answer faster.

“When I think back on it, I realize how rare it is to have the chance to build that kind of relationship in the sciences,” Gina says. “As researchers, so much of our time is swallowed up by grants, papers, classes, and conferences.”

Now an established senior scientist, Gina encourages her mentees to seek out similar spontaneous friendships. She strives to pass along the message that you don’t have to find all the solutions on your own. The conversations you have with friends, old and new, could be the catalyst for that next career-defining breakthrough.




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