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Manuel Ares Jr., Class of 1973, Inducted in 2004

Manny Ares says his science career started with a handful of breakfast cereal and a couple of toothpicks in his 9th grade biology class.  Today, he is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Chair of the Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“I would have to say that Deanna Vaughan, who taught my 9th grade biology class, was very influential,” said Manny.  “I think she got me thinking about genetics and DNA.  I remember we made DNA and RNA models using toothpicks and Froot Loops.  This was a satisfying lab exercise on many levels, since we got to eat as we worked.”

After receiving a B.S. in biology from Cornell, and a Ph.D. from University of California, San Diego, Manny continued his Postdoctoral Study at the Yale University School of Medicine in 1987.

“Genetics just seemed so powerful to me when I first studied it, as though it controlled some fundamental essence of being,” he explained.  “I guess that attracted me.  At the end of my studies at Cornell in 1977, the recombinant DNA revolution was happening.  I thought it would be cool to put genes from one organism into another, so I went off to UC San Diego to follow this notion in graduate school.”

Throughout the years of his studies and his research, Manny recognized another very important truth; the best researchers also make the best teachers.

“I don’t really think you can be one without the other.  If you research something and discover something new, what is the first thing you want to do?” he said.  “Explain it to someone!  It seems like we humans are hard wired to do this.  So I think teaching is a fundamental part of research.”

This belief led Manny to receive a $1 million dollar grant in 2002 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to pursue an innovative approach to teaching science to undergraduate students.  He is one of 20 scientists nationwide who has been appointed as an HHMI Professor, with the goal of making science more engaging for undergraduates.  He is using the money to create a research laboratory in which students will learn by conducting research in genomics.  Their focus will be on certain features of the human genome, and the genome of the malaria parasite.

In addition to his teaching and researching, Manny is a prolific publisher of his research, has received numerous awards and honors for his work, and holds several patents.

When asked about advice he would give to today’s high school student interested in pursuing a science career, Manny offered this:  “I would say that they should work on their math, not just calculus, but statistics.  I think statistics are very important in science, but are sometimes overlooked.  I also think that using the computer as more than a media outlet is important.  There are some very simple but powerful programming methods around that are easy to learn, and are necessary tools to have handy.”

Manny enjoys spending time with his wife, and his son, Gabriel.  He also has two other children who are both college freshmen in California.  But his ties to Central New York remain strong.  Manny’s parents live in the area, as do his two brothers and one sister.  His other sister lives in Virginia.

After returning to the east coast after time in California, Manny realized he was embarrassed because he had never learned to surf.  So upon his return to San Diego, he had a student teach him.

“Almost as soon as anyone heard I was from San Diego, the question of whether I surfed came up.  For some reason, having to answer no annoyed me.  Now I can say yes, but more than that it is really a a great way to get some exercise and diversion.  My favorite vacation is to go somewhere where there is really not much to do except surf, sleep and eat.”

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