Ahna Skop

Ahna Skop
Mechanisms that underlie cell division and using scientific art to engage the public

Years at WID

2018 - present

About

Ahna Skop is a geneticist, artist and a winner of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Her lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cell division during embryonic development using the nematode, C. elegans as a model system. Failures in cell division often lead to birth defects, cancer, and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding how cells divide is highly dependent on in vivo microscopy and large amounts of visual data, which dovetails perfectly with one of her other passions, art. The combination of scientist and artist inspires her to think differently and maintain an open mind. Some of her work can be seen in the main entrance of the Genetics/Biotechnology Center building on the UW-Madison campus. She has also curated and contributed to a traveling exhibition of scientific art called "TINY: Art from microscopes" from the UW-Madison campus and she has organized the bi-annual Worm Art Show for the International C. elegans Meeting since she was a graduate student. Ahna, who is part Eastern Band Cherokee, is also passionate about increasing the numbers of underrepresented students in STE(A)M fields. On the UW-Madison campus and in her department, she has established several very successful recruitment and retention programs and served two consecutive terms as the Chair of Equity and Diversity in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). During this time, she received Sloan Foundation support to create and manage the STEM Diversity Network (stemdiversity.wisc.edu) with goals to connect students with campus advocates. In 2016, she was awarded the very first of two, Chancellor's Inclusive Excellence Award for her outreach and inclusive teaching efforts. She has served as a board member for SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science) and was recently elected to the ASCB (American Association for Cell Biologists) Minority Affairs Committee where she has broadened her impact on underrepresented students in science nationally.

Ahna is the child of artists. Her father, Michael Skop, was a bit of a Renaissance man and was a classically trained fine artist who studied with Mestrovic (a pupil of Rodin) and also taught college-level anatomy. Her father operated an art school at their home studio for over 30 years and attracted artists, musicians, and philosophers from all over the world. Her mother was a high school art educator, ceramicist, and has dabbled in fiber art, sculpture and painting. Her two sisters and brother are also graphic and industrial designers. She has embraced her parents' love of creativity in everything she does. She majored in biology and ceramics at Syracuse University (1990-1994), where her father had played football and studied with Mestrovic. She received her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1994-2000) and conducted her post-doctoral work at UC-Berkeley (2000-2003).

Ahna is a Professor in the Departments of Genetics and an affiliate faculty member in Life Sciences Communication and the UW-Madison Arts Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She mentors both scientists and art students in her lab, and also serves on the board of the Wisconsin Science Museum, where many of her art-science collaborations are on display. In 2008, she was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the College of St. Benedicts and was named a Remarkable Women in Science from the AAAS. In 2015, she was honored as a Kavli Fellow from the National Academy of Sciences. Her science and art have been featured by Apple, The Scientist, USA Today, Smithsonian, PBS.org, NPR and Science magazine. One of her great hobbies is cooking/baking (including scientific cakes!) and she manages a foodblog, foodskop.com, in her free time.

Education

  • B.S., Biology, Ceramics minor, Syracuse University
  • Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Post-doctoral work at UC-Berkeley

Research Description

The Skop lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cell division during embryonic development using the nematode, C. elegans as a model system. Failures in cell division often lead to birth defects, cancer, and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding how cells divide is highly dependent on in vivo microscopy and large amounts of visual data, which dovetails perfectly with one of her other passions, art. The combination of scientist and artist inspires her to think differently and maintain an open mind. Some of her work can be seen in the main entrance of the Genetics/Biotechnology Center building on the UW-Madison campus. She has also curated and contributed to a traveling exhibition of scientific art called "TINY: Art from microscopes" from the UW-Madison campus and she has organized the bi-annual Worm Art Show for the International C. elegans Meeting since she was a graduate student. Ahna, who is part Eastern Band Cherokee, is also passionate about increasing the numbers of underrepresented students in STE(A)M fields.

Affiliations

  • Affiliate, Life Sciences Communication
  • Affiliate, UW-Madison Arts Institute
  • Board Member, Wisconsin Science Museum

Honors

  • PECASE (2006)
  • Remarkable Woman in Science (2008)
  • Kentucky Colonel (2008)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science (D.Sc.), College of St. Benedict (Minnesota) (2008)
  • Kavli Frontiers in Science Fellow, National Academy of Sciences (2015)
  • Chancellor's Inclusive Excellence Award in Teaching (2016)
  • SACNAS/AAAS LPSLI Fellow (2017)

Selected Publications

  • Gnazzo MM, Uhlemann EE, Villarreal AR, Shirayama M, Dominguez EG, Skop AR. The RNA-binding protein ATX-2 regulates cytokinesis through PAR-5 and ZEN-4. Mol Biol Cell. 2016 Oct 15;27(20):3052-3064. Epub 2016 Aug 24. PubMed PMID: 27559134; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5063614.
  • Bonner MK, Han BH, Skop A. Profiling of the mammalian mitotic spindle proteome reveals an ER protein, OSTD-1, as being necessary for cell division and ER morphology. PLoS One. 2013 Oct 10;8(10):e77051. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077051. eCollection 2013. Erratum in: PLoS One. 2017 Jan 30;12 (1):e0171399. PubMed PMID: 24130834; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3794981.
  • Pittman KJ, Skop AR. Anterior PAR proteins function during cytokinesis and maintain DYN-1 at the cleavage furrow in Caenorhabditis elegans. Cytoskeleton (Hoboken). 2012 Oct;69(10):826-39. doi: 10.1002/cm.21053. Epub 2012 Aug 10. PubMed PMID: 22887994; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3650724.
  • Shivas JM, Skop AR. Arp2/3 mediates early endosome dynamics necessary for the maintenance of PAR asymmetry in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mol Biol Cell. 2012 May;23(10):1917-27. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E12-01-0006. Epub 2012 Mar 28. PubMed PMID: 22456506; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3350555.
  • Ai E, Poole DS, Skop AR. Long astral microtubules and RACK-1 stabilize polarity domains during maintenance phase in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. PLoS One. 2011 Apr 20;6(4):e19020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019020. PubMed PMID: 21533050; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3080402.
  • Nakayama Y, Shivas JM, Poole DS, Squirrell JM, Kulkoski JM, Schleede JB, Skop AR. Dynamin participates in the maintenance of anterior polarity in the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. Dev Cell. 2009 Jun;16(6):889-900. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2009.04.009. PubMed PMID: 19531359; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2719978.
  • Ai E, Poole DS, Skop AR. RACK-1 directs dynactin-dependent RAB-11 endosomal recycling during mitosis in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mol Biol Cell. 2009 Mar;20(6):1629-38. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E08-09-0917. Epub 2009 Jan 21. Erratum in: Mol Biol Cell. 2009 Dec;20(23):5036. PubMed PMID: 19158384; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2655251.
  • Skop AR, Liu H, Yates J 3rd, Meyer BJ, Heald R. Dissection of the mammalian midbody proteome reveals conserved cytokinesis mechanisms. Science. 2004 Jul 2;305(5680):61-6. Epub 2004 May 27. PubMed PMID: 15166316; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3679889.