Dr. Maggie Werner-Washburne

Presentation: "Becoming a Kama`aina in Science: One Path to Discovery"


SACNAS Past-PresidenT

Regent's Professor of Biology

University of New Mexico


AAAS Fellow
Harvard Foundation Distinguished Scientist
2-time Presidential Award Winner


Dr. Maggie Werner-Washburne is a Regent's Professor in Biology at the University of New Mexico. She is Past-President of SACNAS (2015), a AAAS Fellow, 2011 Harvard Foundation Distinguished Scientist, an author of scientific papers cited more than 4500 times, and a recipient of two Presidential awards for research and excellence in science, engineering, and math mentoring from both Presidents Bush. Her research has been funded by NIH, NSF, and DOE.  Dr. Werner-Washburne directs the NIH-funded UNM-Initatives to Maximize Student Diversity (IMSD) program for student research and is a co-PI on the model organism database FlyBase (Harvard and other institutions) and VectorBase (Notre Dame and other institutions). The goal of the Model Organism Database program at UNM is to increase diversity in bioinformatics by developing a genome annotation center at UNM.

Dr. Werner-Washburne received a BA in English from Stanford.  After graduation, she lived in Mexico, Central, and South America, Alaska, and Minnesota—a walkabout that led to her becoming a scientist. During this time, she became interested in ethnobotany (the traditional use of plants for food, clothing, and medicine). Maggie spent time in Western Samoa and New Zealand and completed an MS in botany at the University of Hawaii, and a PhD in botany with a minor in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a postdoc in yeast molecular genetics where she and collaborators discovered that HSP70 genes were chaperones, Maggie and her family (husband Bruce and two sons) moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is now Regent’s Professor of Biology. Her research has been to understand how yeast cells survive starvation and most recently focuses on genomic analysis of the cell-fate decision that leads to the production of quiescent and non-quiescent cells in stationary-phase cultures and working on new technology to increase the utility of GFP-fusion libraries. Her work has provided insight into aging, the cell cycle, and other significant areas of cell biology. Maggie also spent one year at NSF as a program officer for Microbial Genetics and wrote the first report on the Federal Investment in Microbial Genomics for OSTP.


Dr. Ahna Skop

Presentation: "Too Creative for Science"

Member, SACNAS Board of Directors

Associate Professor of Genetics

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Presidential Early Career Awards for Science and Engineering Winner

AAAS Remarkable Woman in Science




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 asymmetric cell division during embryonic development using the nematode, C. elegans as a model system. Failures in cell division often lead to birth defects, age-related diseases and cancer. 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. Ahna’s 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 from the UW-Madison campus and she has organized the bi-annual Worm Art Show for the International C. elegans Meeting for the past 19 years. Ahna, who is part Cherokee, also works actively to mentor and recruit underrepresented high school and college students; encouraging them to pursue scientific careers. On the UW-Madison campus and in her department, she has been passionately involved with several very successful recruitment and retention programs for underrepresented students. She was recently elected to serve as a board member for SACNAS with plans to broaden her impact 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 many years and attracted artists, musicians and philosophers from all over the world. Her mother is a high school art educator and ceramicist and has dabbled in fiber art, sculpture and painting. She embraced her parents’ love of creativity in everything she does. She majored in biology and ceramics at Syracuse University, 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 and conducted her post-doctoral work at UC-Berkeley. 

Ahna is an Associate Professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Genetics. 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. Her science and art have been featured by Apple and Science magazine. One of her great hobbies is cooking/baking and she manages a foodblog, foodskop.com, in her free time.