Biochemistry faculty profile – Professor Aaron Hoskins

Aaron Hoskins with dog
Professor Aaron Hoskins.

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in the country in central Indiana surrounded by corn and soybean fields and spent most of my time playing in barns. I went to elementary school in Dayton, IN (a town of about 600 at the time). For college, I went to Purdue and then to MIT for grad school with JoAnne Stubbe.

Where did you carry out your postdoctoral research?

I had a joint postdoctoral position with Jeff Gelles and Melissa Moore at Brandeis U. and UMass Medical School.

As a child, who was your biggest influence?

Probably my 1st and 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Thomas, and my grandfather. My grandfather was the only one of his 8 siblings to graduate from high school.

Why did you decide to study science?

I really enjoy lab work and don’t like the outdoors….

Why did you come to Madison? When?

I arrived in Madison on July 3, 2011 and drove straight to David Brow’s lab to drop off glycerol stocks in his freezer.

What do you like most about being a professor?

Interacting with students and trainees and watching them become successful independent scientists.

What is the focus of your research?

We focus on understanding the spliceosome: how it assembles, recognizes introns, and is regulated. We also do quite a bit of tangential work involving chemical biology, single molecule microscopy, and other things. I’m mainly focused on what I think is “neat” at the moment.

What do you consider your major accomplishments?

I think our major accomplishments include showing that single molecule methods can reveal completely new biochemistry for machines even as complex as the spliceosome. I’m particularly proud of us identifying reversible and irreversible steps along the splicing pathway. We’ve also shown that the yeast splicing machinery is useful for studying how small molecules can inhibit splicing.

What advice would you provide to a new assistant professor who is just starting his/her career?

It is really what you want to make of it—set your own expectations and remember: Ultimately you get to decide how you want to live your life.

When you are not working, what do you like to do? What is your favorite place in Madison?

I read a lot and play with my cat (Louise) and dog (Agatha). I also do yoga and go to the gym. I’m trying to get back to being able to bench press 225lbs. I will put in a plug for the Dane County Human Society for my favorite place in Madison. Do you know they are one of the top no-kill shelters in the country?

Favorite Quote

“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.” -Terry Pratchett

Friends Describe Me

Socially awkward but occasionally funny.

Fantasy Dinner Guests

Terry Pratchett, Margaret Atwood, N.K. Jemisen

Best Advice I Ever Received

Virginia Cornish once told me to stop worrying about things that are out of my control. That’s definitely some good advice!

My Undergrad Alma Mater

Purdue University

My Worst Subject In School

Band… I’m completely tone deaf.

If I Weren’t A Professor, I Would

Either be a librarian, work at a cat shelter, or be a bartender. Or all three at once.

In College I Drove

A 1984 blue Chevrolet Celebrity

Favorite Books

Too many… I try to read a book every week. I’m a big fan of N.K. Jemisen and Anthony Horowitz at the moment.

Favorite City

Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Vancouver are all great.

Favorite Movies

Star Wars, Airplane!, Lord of the Rings, Space Balls, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Princess Bride

Favorite Coffee

Ancora iced americano

Current Research

I’m really into thinking about regulation of RNA splicing at the moment, and structure/function relationships among splicing factors.

My Latest Accomplishment

I’ve been doing a lot of baking. I can now make spectacular cinnamon rolls and pretty good brioche and cinnamon babka. I tried making homemade Twinkies but ended up with The Whipped Cream Filling of Despair instead!

Nobody Knows I…

I used to be the youngest black belt in tae kwon do in the state of Indiana. I’ll note that the woman who took over this title to become the youngest later went on to compete in the Olympics. She was really good.