Molly Duman Scheel, ND ’94, assistant professor of medical and molecular genetics at the Indiana University School of Medicine—South Bend and adjunct assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, delivered the commencement address at her high school alma mater, John Adams High School on June 10, 2012 in South Bend, Ind.
Sheel’s speech compared life to a science experiment. She described how she came up with a hypothesis (goal) for how she would spend the next 25 years of her life when she was a freshman at Adams High School. As she executed her “experiment” over the years, Sheel talked about how she had to make changes to her plan and work hard in order to reach her ultimate goals.
“As you navigate through the research experiment that is your life, remember to be tough. Accept the challenge to deal with something that you don’t like, whether it is cancer, mosquitoes, or another other good cause. Pick something that is ugly and be tough. Be a good researcher and find a way to deal with it.”
“Above all, keep making hypotheses or goals. They can be small or large, but make them. These goals will be the light at the end of the tunnel that can help you make it through the rough times that you will undoubtedly encounter. Surround yourself with friends and mentors who understand you and support your goals. Don’t be afraid to adjust the plan if it isn’t working. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself during the process. And don’t forget that you can always come home to South Bend, a city that surely needs your talents.”
“At the end of the science experiment that is your life, you will have to write a conclusion. Make sure that it is a good conclusion. That the discussion section is full of stories about how tough you were, about all the things you have accomplished, and about all the lives that you touched during your time on this earth. Adams helped me find what I like and like what I do, and I wish for you the same as you pursue your own life’s research experiment.”
Scheel returned to South Bend in 2006 to join the faculty at IUSM-SB working on cancer research. Her research group is part of the Harper Cancer Research Institute, a partnership between IUSM-SB and Notre Dame. Her current research interests include genetic and comparative analysis of invasive cellular growth, with emphasis on understanding axon growth and guidance. This work has implications for cancer biology, regenerative medicine, and vector biology. Specifically, her team studies utilizes the Drosophila mosquito system in ongoing research studies, which include: characterization of the impacts and targets of axon guidance protein signaling on cellular growth during development, characterization of invasive phenotypes resulting from genetic alterations in axon guidance molecules and discovery of genetic suppressors of growth and metastasis resulting from genetic lesions in axon guidance genes.