Hannah Cates wearing a shirt that says "Friend of the Pod". Photo provided by Hannah Cates
Hannah Cates wearing a shirt that says “Friend of the Pod”. Photo provided by Hannah Cates

Hannah Cates lives in NYC and studies how genetic and epigenetic mechanisms work together to affect vulnerability to addiction. In her spare time, Hannah is an avid reader, knitter, and gamer. She has two lab assistants name Calypso and Loki who like to meow at the computer screen when she works from home. Hannah is from Texas and tries to go back to whenever she can to visit her big Southern family.

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Night owl

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

2 lovely rescued tabbies. Calypso, 4 & Loki, 6

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Star Trek and Star Wars decor all over (this is an interfaith home). We also had a space themed wedding, so there are some cute modern planetary decorations around as well.

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

Conversational in Spanish and I’m currently learning Hebrew

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

I would either want to own a coffee/book/game shop hybrid.
I’d like to be a scientific policy adviser.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

Astronomy – I adore space.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Unfortunately we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so right now, it would probably be a deserted island. Typically, it would be to Scotland. I have never been, and it’s one of my bucket list locations.

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation – It would be the perfect way to be able to visit family and friends whenever. Plus, I could travel the world on nights and weekends!

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

Read all of Madeleine L’Engle. I have loved her writing my entire life.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Depending on how exhausted I am, either lounge around and read/knit/game OR meander around NYC to coffee shops, book stores, consignment shops, etc.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

My family, books, and music.

15 What beverage gives you life?

Currently, it’s kombucha (but honestly it’s always coffee).

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

Moby Dick — This sounds bizarre, but it was honestly because of what an amazing teacher I had. My senior year lit class did an amazing semester covering Moby Dick and how it shaped other literature. It was the most fun I had in a literature class.

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A teacher or the president.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

My love for other people and the world we live in.

19 What got you excited in science?

I LOVED math in high school and college, and I was also very interested in psychology. In college, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but I had a great research experience that turned me on to science. I was not aware of how people became scientists before this experience. When I found out there was a way to combine math, psychology, and reading to make a career, I was sold!

20 What excites you about science now?

How infinitely complex our body is. I study nuclear biology, so I look at genes and how they are expressed. The fact that every single cell in your body has different things going on at once, and every single molecule is being affected hundreds of ways…is incredible to me. Especially since all of these little things add up to make us who we are, not just our literal cells and body, but our personality.

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Eating an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting.

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I play trombone (or I used to — it’s been awhile)

23 What is your favorite game?

This is a hard one. I love cribbage, but I also enjoy lots of board games. On the video game front, I really love any well-made RPG. I’m currently playing Mass Effect: Andromeda

24 What is the last book you read?

Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Life without love is meaningless

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Run for political office.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

You’re beautiful – stop worrying so much about how others see you.

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Talk things out and don’t keep them bottled up. Recently, I’ve taken up water coloring as well.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The news — I’m a bit of a news junkie.

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Cocaine — I studied cocaine addiction in grad school and had to carry it between buildings.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Siberian tiger

32 What is your favorite book?

I tend to only read books once – there are too many to read! But I loved Madeleine L’Engle’s entire A Wrinkle In Time series.

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Ice cream

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Christmas because I’m around my entire family.

35 What is your favorite plant?

A tulip

36 What is your favorite science fact?

The genetic similarity between humans and cats is 90% (it’s 50% for humans and bananas!)

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Freshly baked cake and cookies

39 What is your favorite sound?

A baby’s laugh

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I think I’d need to talk to my therapist about this one… but I like that I am willing to take criticism and change my way of thinking.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

When I completed my PhD

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A redwood

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Everything you could ever want is at your fingertips or a train ride away.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I sang jazz all through high school and college, and I really miss performing!

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Deena Walker @walkerdm79