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Meet a Scientist: Mariah Denhart and Emily Braham
Jul 17

Meet a Scientist: Mariah Denhart and Emily Braham

By Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas, Research and Science Education Outreach Manager

All of the researchers featured on our Meet a Scientist Saturdays have been trained through Phipps’ science communication workshops. If you are young professional or graduate student in the sciences and you are interested in the workshop or participating in a Meet a Scientist Saturday, check out our website or email our science education outreach manager Dr. Maria Wheeler-Dubas for more information.

This Saturday, come meet two researchers from excitingly different fields of study at the University of Pittsburgh. Doctoral students Emily Braham from the psychology department and Mariah Denhart from the biology department will be in the Tropical Forest this Saturday, July 21, from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. Learn a bit more about these two researchers below, then come learn about some of the exciting research that happens right here in Pittsburgh!

Summarize your research in five sentences or less.

Braham: I investigate how young children come to understand the world around them. In particular, I focus on how they think about numbers and math, and how parents and teachers can help children uncover math in everyday life. Through my research, I work to show people that supporting early math learning is just as important as supporting early literacy.

Denhart: I am currently investigating how a family of proteins known as T-box proteins control normal limb development. These proteins control when genes are turned on or off. All T-box proteins recognize the same sequence of DNA, but each can have different effects on a gene: some of these proteins only turn genes off, some only turn them on, and some are able to do either depending on the tissue. The developing limb simultaneously produces several kinds of T-box proteins, and when they are not expressed at the correct levels human diseases such as Holt-Oram and Ulnar-Mammary syndrome can arise. 

What are some of your interests outside of science?

Braham: I enjoy painting, cooking, and kayaking in my free time.

Denhart: When I am not working on science I usually spend my free time trying to relax by either drawing or spending time walking my dog, Buckles.

When did you first realize you were interested in science?

Braham: I enjoyed math as a child. As I grew older, I wondered why some people struggled with math more than others. This curiosity fueled my desire to study differences in how people think about numbers and how they experienced math as children.

Denhart: As a kid, I loved learning about animals and spent a lot of time taking extra science classes or going to interactive science museums. However, the first time I realized I wanted to pursue a scientific career was when I started college and joined a research team investigating marine sponges and the bacteria that live inside them as a way to monitor the health of marine environments. After I graduated I decided I wanted to continue to develop my skills as a scientist and am now a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh.

Why is science outreach important?

Braham: Science education exposes people to how science is used to form questions and make new discoveries. Scientists come from a variety of backgrounds and investigate a wide breadth of questions. By offering children the opportunity to meet and interact with scientists, we show them that science is a promising career option for studying a topic they care about.

Denhart: One of my favorite parts of my job is having the opportunity to talk about my research with others because they often ask questions I have not thought of before or suggest new ideas or experiments to design. Science outreach is important for encouraging people to question the world around them and for scientists to explain how they are tackling different problems. Science is a benefit for all, and therefore communication between non-scientists and scientists is key to moving forward and finding new ideas or problems to explore. In addition, science outreach can hopefully inspire new people to become scientists who will bring new ideas and skills to the field.