Get to Know: Blake Riggs

Editor’s Note: “Get to Know” is an American Society for Cell Biology blog series devoted to profiling our membership. If you are a current ASCB member and would like to be featured, please get in touch with ASCB’s Director of Membership, Brian Theil, btheil at ascb dot org.

Blake Riggs

Blake Riggs

Professor of Biology, San Francisco State University

What questions does your work try to answer?

My lab focuses on understanding cell division and the partitioning of cytoplasmic material and organelles during mitosis. Lately, we have focused on investigations involving the generation of cellular diversity through organization and partitioning of cell fate determinants during asymmetric cell division early in development. This research has implications on how cells develop and adopt their cell fate and shift from stemness to a differentiated state.

What excites you about your work?

Discovering pathways and mechanisms that are unknown and addressing questions regarding cell organization really drives the passion in my work. Additionally, I am equally passionate about training the next generation of scientists and having those scientists reflect the diversity in our society.

What are some challenges you face in your work?

I work at an R3 Master’s serving institution, which values both excellence in teaching and research. I have been successful in running a research lab and training largely underrepresented masters and undergraduate students in cell biology. A challenge is the length of the Master’s degree being 2 years. It is difficult to sustain a research project and complete a study without PhD students.

How has your membership in ASCB impacted your career journey?

ASCB has been with me throughout my journey in science. From a graduate student learning about cell division to a postdoc studying mitotic spindle assembly, to a junior professor establishing my research laboratory. Importantly, it is the professional development opportunities and standing committees that have served my career the most. Especially the Minority Affairs Committee, without this community of diverse scientists and mentors, I would not be where I am today.

What is some advice you would give your younger self?

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to understand everything, it will come to you in time. Don’t listen to the naysayers and haters, as they are not in your corner and don’t know everything. Science is built on a toxic training environment, especially for women and people of color, but your time will come, and don’t be afraid to name it for what it truly is.

What do you do for fun?

I have trained Capoeira Angola (African-Brazilian martial art) for 20+ years, but I recently have taken up Disc Golf during the pandemic and have become addicted to this sport.

Anything else you would like to share?

In ASCB, we can be the change we want to see!

About the Author:

This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.