Portrait Photograph of Ahna Skop

Ahna Skop

Associate Professor

Department of Genetics, Life Sciences Communication and Arts Institute

Ahna Skop, an Associate Professor in the Department of Genetics has been at UW–Madison since 2004. Her lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cell polarity and cell division during embryonic development using the nematode, C. elegans as a model system. Failures in asymmetric cell division often lead to birth defects, age-related diseases and cancer. Understanding how cells divide asymmetrically 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. 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. Ahna, who is part Cherokee,works actively to mentor underrepresented high school and college students; encouraging them to pursue scientific careers.


Too Creative for Science

Trace the life path of Professor Skop, who will talk about growing up in a household of artists and how this molded her into a scientist. 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. Mr. Skop 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 parent’s 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 UW-Madison and conducted her post-doctoral work at UC – Berkeley

Approximate length of talk: 45+ minutes to 1 hour