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Biochemistry and Molecular Biotechnology Blog

Dr. Oliver Rando, MD, PhD

Monday, November 27, 2023

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

This month, Haley sat down with BMB Professor, Dr. Oliver Rando. Read on to learn more about Dr. Rando's life and the unique perspectives he brings to UMass Chan.

headshot of Dr. Oliver RandoWhere did you grow up?

I grew up just down the road, in Newton MA. 

What was your path to becoming a biomedical scientist?

Well, my father was a biochemist at Harvard Medical School, and I was very good at math as a kid, so it always seemed likely that I'd end up somewhere in STEM. As an undergraduate I loved mechanistic organic chemistry, but I joined Tom Maniatis' lab where I got hooked on gene regulation. I haven't really looked back since then, doing an MD/PhD at Stanford (in Jerry Crabtree's lab), then starting a small independent lab as a Harvard Bauer Fellow.

Why did you choose UMass?

I was really attracted by UMass' great strength in chromatin biology, and in RNA biology, which are two major interests for my own research. I also found the collegiality here refreshing compared to some other places I've been. 

What setbacks have you faced in your career that you’d be willing to share with us?

There have been a number, although most of them are pretty standard for any biomedical researcher (borderline unethical grant reviewers for example). I guess the sort of unique one would be that we have realized over the past few years that every measurement of epigenetic information in sperm -- those we have made but also all the other published ones -- is wrong. While it is great that we figured this out and it is of course essential to correct, revisiting those measurements really feels like going backwards in time. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

It's great to chase leads that take you into new areas where you are out of your depth -- it keeps your mind flexible and young! -- but maybe don't chase every​​ one of those tangents all at the same time and end up not being an expert in anything.  

What would you do if you never had to work again?

I would never write a grant again, but I'd certainly keep doing research. Beyond that it depends on why I never had to work ... if it was because I was insanely wealthy I'd probably do something fun like buy Twitter and run it into the ground and prove myself both unspeakably vile and embarrassingly stupid.

What is your favorite kitchen utensil?

A Damascus steel chef's knife.