An Interview with Dr. David Traver, PhD, Recipient of the 2019 ISEH McCulloch & Till Award

Interviewed by Novella Guidi of the ISEH New Investigators Committee

What key question would you like to answer with your science?

How are hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) born during embryonic development? Every year we learn more and more regarding the genetic inputs and cellular interactions needed to form HSCs. Yet, this process that occurs in the embryo cannot be replicated in vitro from pluripotent stem cells. So, we still have a great deal to learn regarding how the known signals are integrated into the precursors of HSCs to enable their formation.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have to face in your career?

Maintaining a consistent stream of funding. It seems that funding is often either feast or famine, with either option being fairly arbitrary. I hope we can improve the system in the U.S. to better link a laboratory’s track record with grant success.

What do you most value in a student or a member of your team?

I think motivation and curiosity are key traits of a successful scientist at any level. It is also a privilege to be surrounded by intelligent and collegial people every day.

What advice can you offer aspiring new scientists?

Despite the training required and challenges faced, being a scientist is a wonderful thing. It is one of the few jobs where you can literally do what you want and follow your interests without anyone else telling you what to do. It is also a job of mitigating failure, from daily experimental outcomes to grant and paper rejections, so one must celebrate the successes that arise. Along these same lines, Gerry Crabtree, a celebrated professor at Stanford once told me, “You should always have a tan”. I’ve been trying to follow this advice ever since.

What do you enjoy doing, apart from science?


I think I’ve been able to achieve a healthy work / life balance. When I’m not in the lab, I’m with my family eating good food and exploring the world. I also love being outside, whether its hiking, camping, fishing or just sitting on the beach.

Hoping to connect with Dr. Traver in person?
You can do that in Brisbane at the 2019 ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting!

Dr. Traver has graciously volunteered his time and talents for many sessions and events at the ISEH Annual Scientific Meeting. You'll find him:
But hurry - most of these popular events require preregistration and space is limited! So REGISTER NOW!

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