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Staff Spotlight: Catherine Toste

Wednesday, September 11, 2019
C Toste

As a child and teenager, Catherine Toste wanted to be a veterinarian. Those interests pivoted to neuroscience research when two of her cousins were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2007. Now, as a research technician II within the lab of Laurie Sanders, PhD, she’s helping to conduct research that advances our understanding of and ability to treat Parkinson’s disease. For this week’s “Spotlight” interview, Toste talks to us about her work, her excitement at building and testing hypotheses, and her plans for graduate school and beyond.

What are your current responsibilities within the Sanders Lab? What does a typical day for you look like?
My responsibilities include maintaining mammalian cell lines, performing in vitro drug treatments to study their effect through several downstream assays and some lab management duties. My days vary from week to week, but I typically start off with cell culture  where I prepare the cells for my experiments. Then I'll move on to starting/completing downstream experiments such as western blotting, immunocytochemistry or co-immunoprecitation, etc. I like to finish the day off with lab management tasks and data analysis.

How did you first get interested in biology? How did you decide to join the Sanders lab?
​I first became interested in biology from growing up around animals. I rode horses all throughout my childhood and originally wanted to be a veterinarian up until the end of high school, and that's when my trajectory changed. My two cousins were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy back in 2007, and that's what really sparked my motivation and passion for pursuing research. Joining the Sanders Lab was the easiest decision. It was so clear to me from the beginning the drive and dedication that Laurie has for her work and the Parkinson's community. She and my co-workers have really pushed and inspired me to work hard and be the best that I can be and I've grown so much in the last two years because of them.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love that it's always changing and evolving. I love that the interpretation of the data is what changes the trajectory of the project, it's always exciting to test hypotheses and look at the outcome for the next steps. In particular, I love that Laurie's lab has a focus on translational science and that the work that we do here can be translated directly to patient health and clinical outcomes.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
​I think the hardest part of any job is failure but that's especially something that is prominent in the research field. It's never ideal to have experiments or ideas fail after time and resources have been spent. Although sometimes I do struggle, I like to learn from everything I do, regardless of the outcome!

What plans do you have for the future? If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
My dream job would be to work for a clinical research team that focuses on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. I would love to be able to contribute to the development of potential drugs that could alleviate or eliminate the progression of the disease. As far as my future plans, graduate school is on the radar as well as exploring potential career avenues in the clinical research field.  

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
​Fitness has definitely been a huge part of my life outside of work, I also really enjoy reading and playing music whenever I get the spare time. I grew up and spent almost all of my life in Boston so New England sports are equally a big passion of mine. 


Toste demonstrates her continuing love of the New England Patriots during last year's Super Bowl, and prepares to run in a 5k to raise money for Duchenne muscular dystrophy earlier this spring below.