Microbiotics and music

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Sara Maltinsky pursues her artistic passions while working in Paul Keim’s lab.

As a senior biomedical science major, Sara Maltinsky has been working in Paul Keim’s laboratory since her sophomore year at the university. When she’s not studying cancer cells or antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Maltinsky’s following her passion and recording music—just this year, she released Moltensky, her new album filled with a variety of music that she performed herself.

Ground-breaking research

Keim, a Regent’s Chair, regularly brings undergraduates—including first-year students—into his groundbreaking Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics (MGGen) on campus to work with him and his staff. Keim is one of the world leaders in the science of tracing the origin points of disease through genetic research, and Maltinsky has had the opportunity to personally perform hands-on research and make important discoveries.

“My biggest project, which I started on as a sophomore, was examining pancreatic cancer cells and finding the break between normal cell growth to abnormal cell growth,” Maltinsky says. “Now, I'm working with antibiotic-resistant pneumonia from Africa. We've even received samples in Arizona that I'm working on.”

Maltinsky says that she is grateful for the extraordinary opportunity to start her research career in such a prestigious and professional environment.

“Here, students have opportunities to be published, which I don't think many undergrads do,” Maltinsky says. “Working for MGGen is such a blessing, and I still can't believe I have a job here sometimes."

Hitting the right notes

While she had always been interested in writing and performing music, one of Maltinsky’s lab partners encouraged her to record a professional studio album. She says the album – which contains laid-back, easy listening folk music – has been a hit in the Flagstaff community.

Maltinsky has also been performing at local venues, including Bookman’s, Fire Creek, Stage Left Deli, Higher Grounds Coffee, and Hops on Birch. Her music features many different instruments performed by her friend, while Maltinsky plays the acoustic guitar, saxophone, and sings.

Balancing being a musician with being a scientist can be difficult, and Maltinsky says that finding the time in the day to get everything done can be challenging. However, she explains her experiences at Northern Arizona University have been nothing but positive, and has found that her professors and the community are supportive of her goals and ambitions.

“I think the attitude in Flagstaff in general is just so welcoming and nurturing,” Maltinsky says.