Mario Shammas

Hometown: Baghdad, Iraq
Undergraduate Institution: University of Michigan
Major: Neuroscience

Why a Physician Scientist?

When I was in high school, one of my greatest teachers had Parkinson's disease, and I promised him that I will cure it. I have come to learn - mainly through the writings of the late Dr. Oliver Sacks, who had a tremendous influence on me - that disease consists of two parts: the biological and the personal, and the latter is often just as important as the former. Therefore, I will have to be involved in both the scientific and the clinical settings to be able to fulfill my promise.

When did you become interested in research?

When I was 10 years old, I suffered nerve injury from a car collision that led to my not being able to use my left arm for several months. I became really interested in the reasons why I was able to control my right arm but not the left, and began asking many questions. I was fascinated with neuroscience and decided that I want not only to learn what others have already discovered, but to engage in it myself and answer previously unanswered questions.

Why is research exciting?

Research allows one to be involved in one of the most intrinsically human activities - asking questions and answering them. I have always wanted to become an astronaut and be on the first mission to Mars, because I am thrilled by the idea of going where no other has gone. Research is the same, but instead of expanding the physical boundaries of mankind like space travel, it deals with expanding the boundaries of knowledge, ceaselessly pushing back against the unknown.