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Martha Cyert
Senior Associate Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, Professor of Biology

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For biologists like Martha Cyert, baker’s yeast is more than just an ingredient for freshly baked bread. Yeast cells not only share many characteristics with human cells but also are easier to work with in a lab, making them an ideal model organism for researchers.

Ever since Cyert came to Stanford almost two decades ago, the biology professor has been using yeast to study calcium-dependent signal transduction. In particular, Cyert has been researching calcineurin, a calcium-activated protein that controls crucial cellular functions. Because the calcineurin in yeast is similar to that in mammals, Cyert’s work has helped uncover information about major processes such as T-cell activation and heart valve development and, more broadly, learning and memory.

In addition to her research, Cyert also devotes time to teaching the next generation of scientists. Whether in the lab or the classroom, she always encourages students to ask big questions, to engage with the material, and to test their ideas.

For Cyert, the best way to become a scientist is to do science. She works daily with students in her lab, discussing and troubleshooting their experiments, a learning process that she says allows her to remain a perpetual student.