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Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology Blog

Hila Schaal

Monday, August 28, 2023

Each month the BMB Department will feature a department member's unique story.

This month, Haley interviewed Hila Schaal, a research associate in the Miller Lab. Please take the time to read about what she brings to our department (including her active role on the department's Outreach Committee).

There's Hila!

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in Israel and spent my early years there. When I was about 8 years old, my parents moved our family across the Atlantic for better opportunities. We settled in Louisville Kentucky, and I found friendly communities in school sports, city charity events, and compassionate neighbors. 

What brought you to UMass / your current position? 

During my undergraduate career at UMass Amherst, I applied for a summer research fellowship at UMass Medical School. During this experience, I gained invaluable skills as a young scientist. I learned practical wet lab skills, the importance of networking, and the intricacies of science collaboration and communication. Later, when COVID paused the world, I took a pause from my graduate school education and applied as research associate to gain more in person experience in the laboratory and work force. 

What are some setbacks you've faced in your journey so far, and how did you overcome them? 

During the later parts of my undergraduate career and throughout receiving my masters degree, I had major health setbacks that limited me from walking or functioning like my regular self. I used to be a competitive athlete and was proud for running many triathlons, half marathons, 5Ks, and 10Ks. Running was a way for me to feel relaxed and centered. After my health setback and back surgery, the physician taking care of me told me I should never run again. At the time, the loss of running felt like a loss of a large part of my identity. Now, I am overcoming this change by learning to forgive and accept how life works. This journey is helping me be grateful for what I was able to achieve and to appreciate that I can always grow and learn new things.  

Hila's dog, Mookie, outside the LRB.

How would you spend your time if you never had to work again in your life? 

This question is easy! I love animals, so I would volunteer at animal shelters working to find forever homes for dogs and cats.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? 

I have dreamed about living in New Zealand after watching the show “Xena: Warrior Princess.” When I was much much younger, I was convinced that Xena’s filming location was too beautiful to be real! Thankfully, New Zealand does, in fact, exist. I would love to enjoy the beautiful landscape and watch my dog Mookie run through the green hills.

What is your favorite kitchen utensil? 

My favorite kitchen utensil is a ladle because it reminds me of my grandmother’s special soup she always had when visiting her house. 

Anything else you'd like to talk about? 

I am part of the BMB diversity and outreach committee and we are looking for volunteers to help with future events. Working with this committee has been so fulfilling and fun! Please contact if you want to volunteer.