Clare M. Waterman, Ph.D., NIH distinguished investigator and director of the NHLBI Laboratory of Cell and Tissue Morphodynamics has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the highest honor for American scholars in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.
“I came to the NIH in mid-career, 11 years ago, and I can say here I have done the best work of my life,” said Waterman, who works in the NHLBI Division of Intramural Research (DIR). “I attribute this success in no small part to the outstanding support and the great intellectual stimulation one finds here, which not just allows but encourages more creative and original research. And I do mean that.”
The bulk of her research focused on understanding the movement of cells, which is what distinguishes living organisms from dead ones and is of critical importance to human health.
“Living things are animated by the constant movement of their cells , for instance, immune cells seek out infected tissues. They also can move in a way they are not supposed to and lead to illness, for instance, metastatic cancer cells invade new organs,” explains Waterman.
Therefore, understanding how cells move is critical to learning how to direct that movement, to be able to control it, for instance, with drug treatments.
“If we could control the movement of cells, we would be able to direct them to move to promote the healing of wounds or the fighting of disease, or stop the cellular movements that ail the body,” she said.
A big sports fan, Waterman feels this is akin to getting into the Hall of Fame, “but the Hall of Fame of the world, and I am just a kid from the suburbs of Baltimore.”
In 2015, Waterman and her team received an NHLBI Orloff Technical Award for deciphering the role of myosin II in endothelial cell angiogenic migration in 3D using novel computer vision analysis tools.
Waterman graduated from the Mount Holyoke college with a B.A. in biochemistry in 1989, received an M.S. in exercise science in 1991 from the University of Massachusetts, and received her Ph.D. in cell biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995. Prior to joining the NHLBI, she spent nine years as a professor in the Department of Cell Biology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Dr. Waterman is an NIH Distinguished Investigator and has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the Arthur S. Flemming Award for Public Service (Basic Science) from George Washington University.