Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of infantile death and the leading genetic killer of children under the age of two. As an associate professor in MU’s Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Christian Lorson has dedicated his life’s research to the study of this devastating disease in hopes of someday developing therapies to replace the diseased gene with a ‘healthy” one.
When S. David Mitchell leaves for work in the morning, he isn’t sure which hat to wear. Sometimes he is a law professor, and sometimes he is a sociologist. On most days he wears both hats at once—an interdisciplinary approach to research that seems to bode well. As an associate professor in MU’s School of Law, Mitchell’s teaching and research feed off each other, focusing on the intersection of society and the law. While his teaching covers topics ranging from torts and criminal justice administration—from “bail to jail”—the courses he gets most excited about involve his main area of research, including “Law and Society” and “Collateral Consequences of Sentencing.”
Lorson and his team often work closely with children diagnosed with SMA and their families. He says this interaction allows his team the opportunity to really “own the project” and “understand how you can directly impact the science and somebody’s life.” He describes a recent trip to Roland Park, Kansas, where the lab team participated in such activities as wheelchair races with the children.
Mitchell recalls that when he began graduate school in sociology he was told scholars should engage in objective research, that they should not inject bias into their research. While agreeing with that principle, Mitchell finds that “the notion that any of our work is truly objective is ridiculous.” By the time one chooses a research topic, he suggests, there is already the bias of selecting an area about which one is passionate. Moreover, he disagrees with the idea that scholars should not be advocates of their own research.