Growing Up In Science – Carla Shatz

April 15, 2022 | 12:00am - 12:00am

Growing Up in Science (GUIS) is a new-to-Stanford discussion series. In each session, one faculty member will share the personal side of their individual journey through academia. The stories shared will focus on the struggles, doubts, weaknesses, and failures we all face as young scientists. The series aims to normalize discussing these personal and interpersonal challenges, and supporting one another through them. No science will be discussed! GUIS is exclusively an in-person event.

More information about this cross-university series can be found here.


Carla’s Official Story

Carla received her B.A. in Chemistry from Radcliffe College in 1969, an M.Phil. in Physiology from University College London in 1971, and was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard Medical School in 1976. She joined the faculty at Stanford in 1978, moved to the University of California at Berkeley in 1992, and later returned to Harvard Medical School in 2000, becoming the first woman Chair of the Department of Neurobiology. In 2007, Carla started her current position at Stanford as the Director of Bio-X, Stanford University’s pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences program. Professor Shatz has devoted her career to understanding the dynamic interplay between genes and environment that shapes brain circuits. Carla has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and the Royal Society of London, and has earned many honors and awards, including the Gruber Neuroscience Prize, the Champalimaud Vision Prize, the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, and the Harvey Prize in Science and Technology.


Carla’s Unofficial Story

Carla’s father was trained as a mathematician at NYU’s Courant Institute and became an aeronautical engineer, and her mother was a painter trained by Philip Guston at the University of Iowa. Both of Carla’s parents were passionate about their work, imbuing Carla with a dual love of science and art. Carla was born in New York City and went to public high school in Connecticut. As a girl, Carla’s father used to take her and her brother skiing – sometimes even on school days! These trips were very special, and taught her a powerful lesson: even at the top of a slope so steep that the bottom was not visible, she could push off and trust her skill to carry her safely and joyfully down the mountain. When she left home in 1965 to go to college, she had no idea what she might become. One certainty, she thought, was that she would marry and have children. She finds it incredible that her life has turned out so differently. Back then, there were no role models to lead the way. Carla married, but waited until too late to have biological children, despite many attempts. Over the years, Carla has found a silver lining in the incredible students and postdocs she has trained – her scientific children.