Working in a new normal: a balance between science and personal care


Last name: Sarah goetz

Position: Lecturer in Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

Years at Duke: 6

What she does at Duke: The pieces of a cell that are of most interest to researchers in Sarah Goetz’s lab are the cilia, which act like small antennae on the outside of each cell, receiving signals from neighboring cells and the surrounding environment. The questions explored by Goetz’s lab relate to how eyelashes work and how, when not functioning properly, mixed signals can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as cancer.

“We know more and more that these structures are linked to different human genetic disorders,” said Goetz, who oversees a team of four full-time laboratory staff and a handful of graduate and undergraduate students.

How her work has changed since the pandemic: Much of Goetz’s work involves studying cell development in mice. When the pandemic forced much of Duke’s lab work to slow down or stop in the spring of 2020, the only lab work that happened was to keep the mouse colony going.

A few months later, some on-site work was able to resume, provided the laboratory staff wore masks and had no more than four people on site at a time. But most of Goetz’s team’s work was remote as team members worked on manuscripts for articles based on pre-pandemic data.

“In those first few months our work has changed a lot,” said Goetz, whose lab reverted to regular working arrangements earlier this year.

What part of her job is she most proud of in these difficult times? Goetz’s pandemic experience came with the twist of having one of his lab’s postdoctoral students join the team just before the pandemic started, and another lab technician hired during the pandemic.

Training new team members was a challenge, but Goetz said she was thrilled with how they adjusted to new roles in difficult times.

“They just were able to do a lot of things without as much help as they normally would have been made available to them,” Goetz said. “They were able to learn what they needed and they showed a lot of personal motivation and willpower to achieve it. “

What did she miss on campus? While working remotely, Goetz missed the opportunity to walk around campus. Before the pandemic, she often took breaks and ventured from her lab at the Levine Science and Research Center to other parts of the campus such as Perkins Library and Abele Quad.

“I definitely missed it,” Goetz said. “When working from home, you have to make a more conscientious effort to get out and walk. On campus, this seems to happen more naturally.

Strawberries and marinated mushrooms.What helped her get through the pandemic? While many home cooks dabbled in baking during the pandemic, Goetz decided to focus on stripping. By harnessing the fermenting powers of lactobacilli bacteria, Goetz was able to find tasty ways to marinate things like strawberries and mushrooms.

“It’s interesting and fun,” Goetz said. “It’s pretty easy. You really don’t have to do anything. You just vacuum up the thing you want to marinate, and all it needs is salt and anaerobic conditions. Salt kills any other germs that are in it, and lactobacillus, which can tolerate salt, will grow and pickle whatever you try to pickle.

Best lesson from the pandemic: Like many during the pandemic, Goetz faced the daunting challenge of balancing her busy work and family life. Goetz was also helping his son, Owen, complete his first year and virtually sail in his second year. She said trying to cope with work and life, and realizing that she couldn’t do it all, helped put herself in perspective.

“I realized that sometimes you don’t have the ability to do everything you want within the time frame that you want, and that’s okay,” Goetz said. “I think things have worked.”

Beer fermentation and finished beer.Something most people don’t know about her: Prior to coming to Duke, Goetz was an avid amateur brewer. While living in New York, where she was a post-doctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, she became passionate about and mastered the art of making a particular season from rye, wheat, barley. and a variety of Belgian yeast that thrived in warmer environments.

“Apartments in New York are always hot,” said Goetz, who admits it’s been a while since she’s done anything. “They’re incredibly warm in the winter, and with a small window air conditioner, they stay warm in the summer. So this beer worked really well in my warm little apartment. It would still come out very well.

How do you work in a new normal? Tell us about it by writing to us or filling out this story idea form.


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