Profile in Research: Jessica Hamerman, PhD
Jessica Hamerman, PhD, holds a current Arthritis Investigator award from the Arthritis Foundation. Previously in the laboratory of Lewis Lanier, PhD, at the University of California, San Francisco, Hamerman is now an independent researcher at Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle. Her research focus is on regulation of the innate immune response to pathogens, with an emphasis on macrophages and dendritic cells.
What role do you think the Arthritis Foundation plays in the progress of arthritis research overall?
The Arthritis Foundation funds important basic research that will hopefully lead to better treatments. I think the Arthritis Foundation understands that basic research is important to understand disease and that good therapeutics do not always come from studies targeting disease models; the basic work needs to be done first.
What role has the Arthritis Foundation played in your career?
The support I have received from the Arthritis Foundation made possible the last years of my postdoctoral work and a smooth transition to the independent position that I have now. There are not a lot of grants that provide for the transition, so I am thankful the Arthritis Foundation chose to fund my research. I think it also made me a more attractive job candidate when looking for an independent position—already having some funding.
Where do you think your research will lead? How will it change the lives of people with arthritis?
I hope my research will lead to a better understanding of how the inflammatory response of macrophages is regulated, with the possibility of designing therapeutics based upon this information. If this occurs, it may result in the better treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.
Do you have any personal connections to arthritis or autoimmune disease?
My grandmother had lupus, which is one of the reasons I chose to pursue immunology research as an undergraduate.
What is your life like outside the lab?
I have a husband and two children (Julia, 4, and Eli, 2). My life outside the lab these days consists of spending time with my family, as much as possible of it outdoors.
About how many hours per week do you spend in the lab? Do you have a hard time balancing the dedication to your job and your outside life?
I spend about 45–50 hours per week in the lab right now. I have had more than four years’ practice balancing being a scientist and a parent, so for the most part it is not too difficult. I try to focus on things that can only be accomplished at the lab when I am there and do other things (write grants and papers, correspondence, read papers) both at the lab and at home after my children go to bed. The hardest part is having enough hours to sleep close to a grant deadline! Also, long experiments sometimes mean I go back to the lab after my kids go to bed. I am sure I do not spend as much time at the lab as other junior scientists, but I do not feel my productivity suffers because of it. When I am at the lab, I try to be focused and efficient.
What’s the last good, non-medical, book you read?
I love to read fiction. I really liked Atonement by Ian McEwan and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Salman Rushdie is my favorite author.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Mostly rock, reggae and blues (and of course children’s music when necessary).
Are you physically active? What is your activity of choice?
I like to hike, mountain bike and snowboard, but don't have a lot of time for that these days. I also like to garden.
What is your favorite food or type of cuisine?
Hard to say, I love all food. Being back in the Pacific Northwest, I am happy to have a ready supply of fresh oysters to eat (on the half-shell).
If you weren’t a medical researcher, what would you be doing now?
I always like to say if I fail as a scientist I will be a gardener. I love to grow flowers and vegetables and when I was a grad student I had a huge garden plot in a community garden in Seattle.