From mechanics to medicine: how one person decided to become a scientist


Today we will tell the story of how one member of our community, Mike Daniels, an auto mechanic, became a cancer researcher, being inspired by the work of Aubrey de Gray and the SENS Research Foundation to fight age-related diseases. This is an emotional, bold, but true story of a man who committed a decisive act and now does amazing things for the sake of science.

Hill : First of all, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Mike : Of course. I am a first year student at the University of Colorado aspirators in the direction of Biostatistics. I met my wife in 2003 on an online dating site just two days after I was mobilized for the war in Iraq. As a 42-year-old father of two daughters, I keep in touch with my parents, who still live in Appalachia, where I grew up. I do not know if I am a contradiction or a bridge between two worlds. J. D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy book reminds me of my ancestors who lived along Highway 23 in East Kentucky.

At the same time, it was only yesterday that I presented a review of a scientific journal to a class filled with intellectuals, such as doctors, biologists, and mathematicians. Being a liberal, scholarly atheist with religious, conservative relatives and friends, I understand why voters supported Donald Trump and why protesters take to the streets. Karl Sagan said, we are just a blue dot, a speck of dust in the sun, just to outline the perspective.

So who am I? I am the guy who repaired your air conditioner, covered the roof in your house, changed the spark plugs in your car, worked on the food production line, defended your country in the war, was a waiter at a table in your favorite restaurant, and even washed dishes for you, after you left. Now I want to join the united front to fight the main cause of human suffering - aging.

Hill : When did you first hear about SENS and what interested you in this idea?

Mike : A good case inspired me to read Aubrey de Gray's book “ Stop Aging ” in 2008. I lived in Louiseville, Kentucky, and spent my free time working at the White Castle Frozen Hamburger Factory in a local coffee shop called Brothers Coffee Heine Brother's Coffee. Next to this coffee shop was Carmichael's, the local online bookstore. While sitting in a cafe, I felt discouraged because of financial problems associated with the working profession, lack of sleep due to the care of two babies and the suffering of the war that filled the news.

As I looked in the direction of the bookstore, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds to the ground. I got up from my seat so that this light fell on my face and lifted me up. I must have stood like that for about a minute. After that, I went straight to my favorite section of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. And found not just a book, but hope. While Barack Obama told us about changes and hope, I found them for myself. The book " Stop aging " reached me. Dr. de Gray told us not to limit humanity to its DNA.

Challenge the status quo and find out how great we can become. Each generation believes that it can achieve more than the generation of their parents. Until one day this generation is not weakened by the effects of the symptoms of aging. Great people lose their dignity due to the fact that a social worker or family member should help in what was once an elementary task for them. Even as their body and mind fade away, the younger generation diligently assimilates their wisdom and love.

It deeply touched me because I love my parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, other relatives and friends. For religious people, the idea of ​​being able to see a loved one again in paradise or the concept of life after death allows you to partially cope with the pain of losing them due to aging. Being an atheist, I had no such opportunity. The grain of transhumanism was sown in me and the reason was Aubrey de Gray.

SENS captured me not by the aging of our loved ones. De Grey's analogy with the maintenance of an antique car caught my attention at the beginning of the book. It was a direct appeal to me as an auto mechanic. I read it in 30 minute breaks at the White Castle chain of hamburgers. While on the assembly line I collected 3 sets of 6 burgers out of 6 and sent them to the plastic packaging at a speed of one pair per second, my thoughts were far away.

What are the 7 damage categories that need to be reversed? Do they cover everything? Repairing may be easier than changing metabolism, but is it possible in principle? What will happen to society after the elimination of age-related diseases? Aubrey commented on each of these questions, and the scientific community gradually began to accept his ideas when it was not possible to disprove them. I was in the game and wanted to be part of the next stage of improving a person.

Hill : What did this book inspire you to do?

Mike : At some point I decided to stop familiarizing my wife with the concept of SENS with small steps and immediately told her all my thoughts. This happened during a long walk, when, as I unknowingly knew that she had nowhere to hide. She remained quiet and somewhat frightened for several hours while I talked about molecular biology, the troubles of aging, and my plans to become a doctor or researcher. She has two master diplomas. I was busy retraining the national guards, who were to be sent to Iraq and worked in several positions at the frozen food factory, and also carried out a number of low-wage physical work.

I was not naive about the difficulties of academic life. I had good success in school, which I finished with an average score of 4.0 and the first place in the district math competition. I attended the Virginia Technical School to become a chemical engineer, but spent several years not paying attention to studying. Instead, I concentrated on failed relationships, getting approval from the outside environment, participating in parties and losing faith. The last straw was a nervous breakdown due to financial problems.

A friend took me to the ambulance because she was afraid that I would kill myself. I did not even tell her where I was considering this opportunity. Living in a crumbling apartment without money or food, I took a last breath and plunged into a bath of water, clutching my legs so that it would be difficult for me to free myself. I looked up to the surface of the water and listened to God. I heard nothing.

This shocked me because I intended to finish the job. In disbelief, I freed my legs and slowly came out of the water as if in an atheistic baptism. My view of the world was wrong. My life was a lie. I loaded the essentials into the car, leaving most of my belongings, and headed back to East Kentaki. On the way home, I convinced myself that I would never again attend college and find a new road to happiness.

I spent the next decade trying to make ends meet. I experienced varying degrees of depression. I did unskilled work, participated in fistfights, for a couple of short periods I was homeless and I was willing to take risks to feel anything but numbness from a failed life. By the time I met my wife, my condition had stabilized. I could not tell her all that I had seen and done, out of fear that she would act rationally and leave the villager. So, when I expressed the idea of ​​becoming a researcher, she was worried that our stable life would return to the chaos of my previous life.

It became clear that working in a factory 60 hours a week and the need to take care of two children who were not even three years old was not the best time to return to school. Therefore, we waited. I got a promotion to a catering service department specialist. I liked this job. I learned how to solder copper for repairing air conditioners, worked with concrete, managed the lifts to replace the electronic load in the parking lights, repaired fryers, grills and machines milkshakes. I still read about cell biology in my free time and searched the Internet several times a week for Aubrey de Green and his progress. Then turned up a chance.

My neighbor worked for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) as the coordinator of the donor center. He was interested that his neighbor, a mechanic, was reading biology textbooks when he was not called in the middle of the night to repair a freezer. He asked if I was interested in a career in medicine and said that he could arrange an interview for me.

After I had waited three and a half years, I had to decide if I was ready to risk everything for the sake of my dream. Soon I will not be the only one interested in this opportunity. Before the interview I needed to show a summary. In my past there was nothing that would indicate my suitability for this work. I prepared a minimalist resume. My new boss noted the simplicity of my resume. I told him that I have no evidence in favor of my suitability for this work.
From answered: "So why should I hire you?" I explained to him that my qualifications are in my mind and heart.

He asked me questions about biology, medicine, and people skills. I compared the cardiovascular system with air conditioning. The heart is the pump. There are areas of high and low pressure. Capillaries are like evaporators, but instead of absorbing heat, they deliver oxygen and nutrients. He hired me and said that they could teach me what I do not know. I took a position with a lower salary from 7 pm to 7 am three days a week and soon after that I began to attend the University of Louisville in the afternoon.

Hill : Wow, so you completely changed the profession, how difficult it was and what problems you had to face?

Mike : Well, in the matter of the difficulty of changing the profession, intuition did not let me down. The transition was not easy, because I decided to work two jobs at the same time for a couple of months in order to make sure that I could cope with this work. I used vacation at work in White Castle to study at KODA during the day. After the “vacation” ended, I was trained in the evening shift and worked on the service work during the day. In addition, I was on the phone at night every second week in case of technical problems.

One night after continuous work for three days I could not fall asleep, because my heart was beating fast and my face and limbs were numb. Like many people in a similar situation, I mistakenly took my first panic for a heart attack. My wife took me to an ambulance, where the doctor said that I had an excellent ECG and blood test. He asked: “Are you experiencing any stressful events now?” One of the aspects of my new work “Technique” occurred in the evening, the day before my panic attack.

As the coordinator of the donor center at KODA, I received calls — death certificates from nurses from our hospitals in Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. After studying the patient's medical history, I needed to determine if he could be a donor to the tissues and eyes. Potential donors must have consent from their close relatives, regardless of civil status. It was very difficult to ask the next of kin for consent to donate a couple of minutes after the death of a loved one.

After consent, I filled out a 20-30 minute questionnaire on social and medical issues, which included tactless questions in the seed regarding health, sexuality, drugs and imprisonment. I spent the next five years trying unsuccessfully to cope with nervousness with the help of 8 different antidepressants. At the same time, the feeling of influencing people's lives and working with some of the best colleagues I’ve ever met was worth it. Thanks to the great support of my family and friends, I received two degrees - a bachelor of pure mathematics and a master of biostatistics.

Hill : What are you doing while studying?
Mike : I'm currently concentrating on studying as a first-year graduate student in biostatistics in the beautiful state of Colorado. Here is a great teaching staff. They encourage me to work to the maximum of my abilities and at the same time enable me and my family to adapt to the new environment. I am studying a course of genomics with a bias in the technology of measuring gene expression and various platforms for DNA sequencing.

I just published my first article as the main author in Breast Cancer Treatment and Research, called “Treatment Results Related to Expression of Subsets of the Genes Responsible for Protein Hormone and Their Receptors from Breast Carcinoma Cells Produced by Laser Exciting Microdissection” . This work is the result of my master’s thesis. I will be presenting my work at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December. I had the honor of participating for the second time and performing the third.

Soon, in collaboration with my new colleagues from the University of Colorado at Denver, I will be involved in preparing an article on the methods of my research practice.

Hill : What do you like most about your job?

Mike : I like science. As a statistician, I have a wonderful opportunity to test real hypotheses. Why is this a great opportunity? Because you can come up with as many good hypotheses as you like, but without the skill of their numerical evaluation, it is impossible to answer questions with an acceptable level of accuracy. In addition, it is not easy. The biggest reward is solving complex problems. And taking into account the huge amount of data of different tomics there is the possibility of new discoveries.

Hill : Which of the seven SENS directions interests you the most and why?

Mike : Must be recognized, OncoSENS. My research was devoted to breast cancer, and within the framework of genetics I study epimutations. In addition, most of us have loved ones who are struggling with cancer, survived, or lost in the fight against cancer. My mother-in-law this week starts a course of chemotherapy and radiation in the fight against breast cancer. I could devote the rest of the interview, talking about human triumph and losses in the battle with this disease. I want humanity to learn to control the damage of all seven types, but this one has a personal meaning for me.

Hill : What do you think about shifts in the study of aging towards crowdfunding, for example, recent projects on OncoSENS and MitoSENS on ?

Mike : I was pleased to know that the SENS Research Foundation has made progress in this area. I think this allows people to be brought closer to the latest research and to the research community. It's nice to donate to charity, but it is often not known where the money goes, except for the most general details. Crowdfunding makes you feel like an entrepreneur who in the world of big business sharks is trying to understand not only what product (research) can be successful, but also what project he wants to be a part of.

Hill : What are your future career plans?

Mike : Defend a thesis! As my grandmother always said, “they count chickens until the autumn”. Given this cautious statement, I would like to work as a team in a biotech company. I am ready for scientific work and consider any possibilities. I want to devote my time to working with gifted people to solve the secrets of aging control. It does not matter to me which organizational form will give me this opportunity.

Hill : Would you like to say something to those readers who want to help, but believe that they can not do anything?

Mike : Yes. First of all, I want to thank the LEAF for the opportunity to reach out to the community. My only goal is to inspire anyone else to search for their own path to a common goal. In the beginning I did not know that I would become a research assistant. I definitely did not think that I would study biostatistics, an area about which I did not know almost until the very end of the mathematical undergraduate degree. Be patient, but always ready to see the path to the next stage in your life. I told my story in an open, confidential manner, because I cannot express my sincerity without the details mentioned. It was not easy. I had to make a significant effort. I suffered a defeat more than once. You may not even know what abilities in which area you have, and how you could help, until you try to do something.

Aging control may need funding more than another graduate with a science degree. If you have the opportunity to provide financial assistance, let my story be evidence for you of the dedication of researchers working in SENS and related organizations. If I were not a 42-year-old student with modest finances, I would trust my money to someone like me. Someone for whom status and personal wealth are not important. Someone whose goal in life is to win over the main cause of human suffering.

I always believed that Aubrey de Gray was such a person. , , , . , . . . , , , . , , .

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Translation done Pattern, SENS Volunteers group


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