Meet: Joan Vernikos
Director Life Sciences Division
Who I am - words that describe me:
Systematic plodder: I eventually achieve my goals through tenacity and
Problem solver: I like solving problems, and I am good at it! I view
problems from the perspective of the glass being half full, not half empty.
My husband says a perfect epitaph for my tombstone would be, "There must
be a way!"
Understanding: I listen to other people and try to put myself in their
shoes and understand the situation from their perspective.
My personal challenges:
Challenge is essential to living. Without challenge you are not alive!!
My research background is in stress and the stress response. My research
has shown that you need a certain amount of stimulation to be "normal."
Too much or too little stimulation is not good for you. I am basically
lazy so I seek challenges to prevent myself from being lazy.
In my 30s, I learned to ski. Six years ago, I started to learn how to
play tennis. Last October, my husband strongly encouraged me to learn
how to ride a bicycle. These are challenges I chose to put in my life
to balance the stress of my career. Mid-life my husband and I started
a chocolate shop making fresh cream truffles. Neither of us had any idea
how to make them before we started, but it was important to me to succeed
at something completely different from my career.
My career challenges:
Meeting challenge with a positive attitude is important to all that I
Career likes - My job is about making discovery possible. This is very
Dislikes - Bureaucracy.
Challenges - Reducing unnecessary problems.
Nora Zaimis, a professor of pharmacology at the University of London,
where I got my Ph.D., greatly influenced me. She was an outstanding scientist
as well as an excellent role model for women, demonstrating the importance
of presenting a polished, professional appearance when interfacing with
colleagues and with the public. She was extraordinary in scientific accomplishment
and was one elegant lady.
I'd like to write a book on aging. Why? This would be a way to share results
of research I have done and perhaps help change concepts about aging,
e.g., what is inevitable and what can be avoided. It would help us to
understand how we can take charge of our aging.
My thoughts about space exploration:
I came to it from the space research perspective. I continue to be interested
in space exploration because I see the enormous potential to be gained
from understanding more about the role gravity plays in our lives. We
have barely scratched the surface.
I have two wonderful grown children, one terrific husband, and no pets.
I am trilingual, being proficient in Greek, French, and English. I would
like to publish my chocolate recipes!