Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of the lab to hear what makes them tick. This month we travel to Irvine, California, United States, to chat with Margot Goodkin, M.D., Ph.D., executive director, clinical development, ophthalmology, Allergan, an AbbVie Company.
Margot Goodkin has literally been all over the map. In her free time, she has traversed the globe exploring stunning vistas, delightful cultures and dazzling people. For work, she has zig-zagged across a sphere of staggering disciplines: environmental, bench and regulatory science; medicine and surgery; pharmaceutical development. Now focused on cutting-edge eye care research, she spends her days envisioning a brighter future for those suffering from ophthalmic diseases.
Tell us the story of how you fell in love with science.
Prior to my dad’s career in dentistry, he was a pharmacist and always had a strong interest in what would eventually become STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I wish every little girl could have a dad like mine -- one so passionate about learning. In his 80s now, he still spends his time reading about quantum physics. My dad instilled a passion in me for learning that was unfettered by any societal expectations or stereotypes of what young boys and girls should be focusing their energies on at such an early age. I inherited my love of science from this amazing man. Both my dad (and mom) were very supportive of whatever my sister and I wanted to do. I was never made to feel there was any hurdle, or life goal, too large to achieve … all I had to do was apply myself.
You work in Irvine, California, at Allergan, an AbbVie company. For us non-scientific people, can you explain what exactly it is that you do?
Similar to high blood pressure, where blood flows through the arteries at higher than normal rates, the eye has pressure inside it, too. My work focuses on an eye condition called glaucoma, a disease where people lose the cells inside the eye that make it possible for them to see. One of the leading causes of blindness in the world, glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye is too high and damages the cells needed for sight; once these cells die, they are unable to re-grow. If you think of the eye like a bathtub, glaucoma medicines either slow down the flow of water into the tub (decrease fluid production); increase the flow of water out of the tub (increase outflow), or both. I study medicines that can help lower the pressure inside the eye to try to keep cells from being damaged, with the hope of preventing people from ultimately losing their sight.