Profile: Huda Y. Zoghbi, M.D. (NAM, NAS)

It was thanks to her clinical training as a pediatric neurologist that Dr. Huda Zoghbi first unveiled a passion for researching neurogenetics. Early in her career, Dr. Zoghbi says learning how devastating neurological disorders are for patients was tough. However, she says it was even harder to not know what caused the disorders she saw in her young patients in the first place.

From there, Dr. Zoghbi decided to study molecular biology and genetics to identify the underlying causes of certain diseases in hopes of improving their management.

Dr. Zoghbi says her initial hope of improving the management of rare diseases has been realized many times over in her career, which continues to inspire her to this day. TAMEST connected with Dr. Zoghbi to learn more about her career and why she has chosen to work and live in the state of Texas.

What do you wish more people knew about your work?

My work shuttles back and forth between studies specifically intended to understand the neurobiology of certain diseases and curiosity-driven studies that allow us to answer fundamental biological questions with no apparent connection to a specific disease.

What many may not know is that our foray into these very basic research studies led us to numerous discoveries that proved clinically relevant after all—whether a discovery of a new disease gene or a potential path for a therapeutic intervention.

What advice would you give to people starting out in STEM careers?

I have two pieces of advice for those starting out in STEM careers:

First, pick a problem you are passionate about and commit to solving it. Research has many ups and downs, but when you care deeply about a problem, you are more likely to overcome the failures and persevere.

Second, reach out and collaborate with people who complement your expertise. Most research requires diverse skills and expertise. To solve the most intractable problems, we must encourage interdisciplinary collaborations. This is truly the best way to expedite advances.

What value do you think TAMEST brings to Texas?

TAMEST accomplishes so very much. It brings awareness to the vibrant science scene in Texas. It connects young rising stars with established and seasoned scientists and engineers. It creates a community that looks out for urgent questions that should be prioritized to advance research in Texas and the U.S.

Perhaps most importantly, TAMEST brings engineers, mathematicians, scientists and physicians together, which is the best forum to inspire interdisciplinary research and collaborations.

Why do you work and live in Texas?

The two major reasons I love being in Texas are the incredible “can do” attitude and the unparalleled generosity of Texans.

Texans are adventurous by nature, they take risks and are entrepreneurial. As a biomedical scientist, I found this very inspiring in my career. I quickly learned there is nothing I can’t do here. If I have an idea for a big new project or scientific initiative and I want to do it, I can.

Generosity is a big deal. A generous scientist is one who shares with colleagues to advance research. I have been fortunate to grow academically in the incredibly generous environment at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.

This generosity is also palpable in Texas society at large, where communities join efforts to support academic institutions and research. Texas is the very best state for starting a career, thriving and ultimately giving back to society.

Dr. Zoghbi is the Ralph D. Feigin Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, Neurology, and Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine, and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is also the director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute (NRI) at Texas Children’s Hospital, and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and has been a member of TAMEST since its inception in 2004.