I am NIMH: Q&A with Mario A. Penzo
Mario A. Penzo, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator and Chief
Unit on Neurobiology of Affective Memory
What is your name and job title?
Mario A. Penzo, Ph.D. I am a Principal Investigator and Chief of the Unit on the Neurobiology of Affective Memory.
Our trainees are the next generation of scientists and clinicians, and it is a pleasure to take part in their professional development as well as in their personal and scientific growth.
How would you summarize what you do?
I lead a laboratory where a team of young investigators, including postbaccalaureate fellows, Ph.D. students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff scientists, work together to identify the neural circuit mechanisms underlying mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
To achieve this goal, we use animal models to investigate how the brain generates emotional and motivational states. For this, our laboratory implements a multidisciplinary approach that includes behavioral assays and cutting-edge technologies for monitoring and manipulating the activity of defined neuronal populations.
How did you come to NIMH?
I was recruited as part of an NIMH search for tenure-track investigators in the fall of 2015.
How long have you worked at NIMH?
Almost 8 years
What makes you want to stay at NIMH?
The NIMH’s mission of transforming the treatment and prevention of mental illness through basic and clinical research. In addition, the institute and the NIH offer the unique opportunity to collaborate with a remarkable number of scientists from complementary disciplines. Lastly, the institute (and NIH) have shared resources, which facilitate scientific research at the forefront of the field.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy having the opportunity to participate in the mentoring and training of so many talented young scientists at NIH. Our trainees are the next generation of scientists and clinicians, and it is a pleasure to take part in their professional development as well as their personal and scientific growth.
What would you tell a friend if they were considering working here?
I would tell them that working at NIMH has been an incredibly fulfilling experience, and I’m glad I joined.
What’s one life lesson you’ve learned from your career?
Persistence and enjoying the process are key to success.
What is a benefit of working here that not many people know about?
The NIH Child Care Centers are fantastic and affordable. The flexible hours make it easy for me to bring my son to work with me every morning and pick him up on the way back home.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
Never really thought about it. I love what I do.