“When life gives you lemons make lemonade.”
It’s an age-old expression, but perhaps Assumption College Biology professor Dr. Michele Lemons’ favorite. It works well for Lemons, as her first college biology course — one she took her freshman year, simply to meet her general education requirements — turned out to become her life’s work.
“Originally, I thought I was merely checking a course off my list of required courses. I was not particularly excited about the course at first. However, to my delight, I found the topic engaging,” Lemons said, “I found myself enjoying biology 101 and decided to take another biology course… and another… and another.”
Lemons graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, with a BS in Biology, a certification in Secondary Education and a minor in psychology. She also left Virginia with a fascination of the discipline of neuroscience, which she would next study in graduate school at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and further as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Utah from 2001-2006.
“I am fascinated by neurons,” Lemons says, “Neurons are specialized cells that are crucial for learning, memory, motor movement, vision and many other crucial, daily functions. During development, billions of neurons remarkably extend arm-like projections, called axons, to their appropriate targets.”
Lemons’ research focuses on the “GPS system” of a neuron during development and the molecular mechanisms that make it work.
“How does each axon know where to go? How does a specific neuron in the brain extend an axon to your leg muscle compared to your hand?”
Since 2007, Lemons has continued her research from Florida and Utah at Assumption College. She earned a research grant in 2010 running through 2015 from the National Institute of Health (NIH), which has enabled her to work with Assumption undergraduate students and publish with them in Brain Research and in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.
In research and other parts of life, Lemons encourages her students about the importance of taking time to reflect.
“I like the idea of continually challenging oneself academically, physically and spiritually,” Lemons said, “Our lives feel incredibly busy, but carving out time to reflect can often open many doors of opportunity and provide a sense of gratification.”