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Graduate Student Feature: Annalie Martin

A headshot of Annalie Martin wearing a black long sleeve shirt and posed in front of her lab equipment
Annalie Martin is in her fourth year of BYU's cell biology PhD program and is studying neurological disorders.
Photo by Nicholas Rex

Annalie Martin learned the value of education when spending some of her childhood in Belize. While in Belize, her parents ran a local school out of a church building, and her mom offered education for women in the Mayan villages. “Because I was the youngest, I went with my mom to the villages most of the time,” Martin says. “Her biggest focus was literacy, so she taught Mayan kids how to read and write.” Her mother lived in Africa and wanted her kids to have the experience of being the minority. In every house they lived in, Martin’s parents allowed her to set up a small “lab”, which fed the flame of her dream to be a scientist someday.

Martin has been living her dream since. She earned her undergraduate degree from Utah Valley University in developmental biology. Her lecture-heavy developmental biology classes were great, but she wanted more hands-on experience in a lab. Now, she's in her fourth year of BYU’s cell biology PhD program, in Dr. Arminda Suli’s developmental neuroscience lab. Martin is a shining light and has become important to the success of other graduate and undergraduate students.

Martin’s lab observes neurological developmental disorders like autism. There are many causes for autism, both genetic and environmental. The variety of autism cases makes it hard to study, according to Martin. “There are people with autism who have severe social anxiety, and there are those who are nonverbal,” Martin explains. She wants to use her research to help identify what kind of brain developments lead to autism in order to facilitate more treatment options.

Martin places petri dishes covered in foil on a scale.
Martin's lab studies the mechanisms that oversee proper brain development.
Photo by Nicholas Rex

Martin’s favorite part of BYU’s graduate program is the many learning opportunities it’s given her. “What I’ve really liked about research is being able to take the concepts I’ve learned in class and apply them to actual problems,” Martin says. “Anyone can memorize things, but being able to look at, manipulate, and study biological concepts has been my favorite part of developmental biology.” Martin enjoys the chance she gets to be a bit of a geneticist, a physiologist, and a cell biologist to understand the brain’s developmental process.

After graduating, Martin would like to teach. Her dream is to conduct research and lecture at a university. Martin is happy to teach anywhere as long as it gives her the opportunity to guide students in their own research.

Martin is from southwestern Colorado. She married her husband in 2011, and they just celebrated their 11-year anniversary. Both she and her husband love board games, especially ones that involve deck building.

When she’s not working in the lab, Martin takes advantage of Utah’s beautiful scenery. She and her husband love hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park and Battle Creek Falls in Pleasant Grove. Before she leaves Utah, Martin’s goal is to hike Timpanogos and tour the Timpanogos cave.

Martin hopes to make a career out of science after graduating. “I’m really passionate about science and education,” Martin says. “I feel like while not everyone is a scientist, everyone is capable of becoming scientifically literate, and I’d like to be a part of teaching that.” Whether it’s continuing her research in a lab or encouraging students in their own research, we can expect to see amazing things from Martin in the future.