Apocalypse: a big disaster that affects the world and human societies.
Biannual: happening every two years.
Boundary: a real or imaginary separation between two things.
Meld: to blend or combine things together.
Synchronization: when two or more things are lined up in movement or in time.
Two dancers walk up to each other and join hands. Suddenly, these two separate people seem to be moving as one. As a scientist who studies partnerships in nature, Athena Aktipis likes the synchronization that happens between two people as they dance together. Her love for partner dancing has always been a part of her life. She even taught at her own dance studio while she was still learning to be a scientist. These days, she’ll often come home after a hard day of teaching and research, and put on her dancing shoes.
Aktipis has always followed her interests, even if they didn’t seem to work together at first. Throughout her life, well-meaning people would tell her to find a focus. However, she realized that if she found the common thread between the things she loves to study, she could organize her different interests around one core idea. For her, that idea was cooperation and conflict. Her research follows that theme, whether she studies tribes in Africa, how gut bacteria affect our appetite, or how cancer cells spread.
Combining interests has always been a theme for Aktipis—she often melds her love for learning with other parts of her life. In high school, during the summer, she would travel with her parents. On these trips, she brought psychology books with her to read on cliffs overlooking the ocean. In graduate school when she had her first baby, she often took her to school with her, showing others it was possible to blend family and work life.
Aktipis says the best part of her job now is that she can keep asking questions, learning new things, and melding new ideas together every day. Besides mentoring students, teaching, and communicating what she does, she likes to work with many other scientists.
She especially likes working with scientists who study different things, but who are excited about the same topic. They can teach each other and think up new research ideas. By working with others, she has come up with new theories of cooperation, and started a conference about medicine and zombies.
In her work, her personal life, and in dance, Aktipis enjoys melding different ideas, people, or movements in new ways. Taking this approach in science has helped her combine her research with the work of others as they push the boundaries of the unknown together.
Cooperation or Conflict was created in collaboration with The Biodesign Institute at ASU. Visit Athena Aktipis's website to learn more about her research.
Ioulia Bespalova. (2018, September 04). Career Path: Athena Aktipis. ASU - Ask A Biologist. Retrieved September 21, 2023 from https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-athena-aktipis
Ioulia Bespalova. "Career Path: Athena Aktipis". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 04 September, 2018. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-athena-aktipis
Ioulia Bespalova. "Career Path: Athena Aktipis". ASU - Ask A Biologist. 04 Sep 2018. ASU - Ask A Biologist, Web. 21 Sep 2023. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/career-path-athena-aktipis