On January 1, 2020, Matthew D. Welch takes the reigns as Editor-in-Chief (EIC) of ASCB’s basic research journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC). Welch is a professor of cell and development biology at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. Welch answered a few questions for the ASCB Newsletter.
How did you first become interested in science and in cell biology?
My father is a statistician who was employed by IBM Research. He would bring me in to work on the weekends, and I got to see the cool laboratory and computer equipment being used by the scientists and engineers.
When I went to college at the University of Michigan I thought I would major in chemistry. However, my father encouraged me to take a biology class, which I found really interesting. I went on to major in cellular and molecular biology. However, I never did take a cell biology class in college, or in graduate school for that matter.
I became interested in cell biology as a first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley, and one person in particular who inspired my interest in cell biology was my PhD advisor, David Drubin (the current EIC of MBoC). I think it’s somewhat ironic that I will be taking over for David. I have some big shoes to fill, but I am also excited to follow in his footsteps.
What do you hope to achieve as EIC of MBoC?
To make MBoC the go-to place for publishing high-quality research in cell biology. Cell biology is such a broad field, and cell biologists are working on an amazing diversity of interesting topics. I want MBoC to capture a greater share of the published work in our vibrant and diverse field.
I especially would like to capture more of the work being done by ASCB members. I hope members appreciate that MBoC offers editorial decision making by our expert member editors, constructive reviewing and editorial feedback, great service, and an attractive publishing platform. I intend to improve the journal in all of these areas, and to experiment with new initiatives in peer review and post-publication assessment.
I also want to remind members that publishing in MBoC benefits the ASCB by contributing financial support to the Society’s other programs and initiatives (in contrast with publishing in a journal owned by a for-profit enterprise).
Also, ASCB leadership and I want to make MBoC an open access journal, which I think will benefit authors and their institutions. To offer open access at an attractive price, we will need more people to send us their manuscripts. I challenge ASCB members to start a positive feedback loop by submitting more work to MBoC!
What are you are tackling in your lab right now?
Our research focuses on the cell biology of host–pathogen interactions, and the topics we work on have broadened over time. Many people in my lab continue to work on the actin cytoskeleton, which is what we are known for. We are working to uncover new ways in which pathogens exploit the cytoplasmic and nuclear pools of actin, which may allow us to gain insights into actin regulation and function. We also work in the area of membrane biology—looking at how pathogens degrade membranes, induce membrane and cell–cell fusion, and manipulate processes such as autophagy. Our biggest recent adventures beyond these areas have been to look into pathogen exploitation of host metabolism, and pathogen interactions with the innate immune system.
Is there anything else that you want people to know about you?
One thing I would like people to know is that, as a gay man, I have had to think independently in the face of societal pressures. This trained me to question dogma and assumptions and see things from an alternative perspective, which has been useful in my career as a scientist. For this reason, I feel it’s important to support diverse and inclusive environments, including at ASCB and MBoC, as a core value of who we are.
One other random thing I can share is that I like planes, trains, and automobiles, not just the movie, but the real things—I find transportation machines fun and interesting. My husband and I own a 1970 Camaro Z28 that we enjoy taking to car shows. I also like cats and we have three living with us at home.
About the Author:
Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.