Samantha Malmberg

How I got into science

As for most 90s babies, before smartphones and tablets, I spent most of my childhood outside. I was in the dirt. Chasing snakes, collecting rocks and climbing trees. As if it was yesterday, I vividly remember the moment that sparked my initial interest in science. One summer afternoon, I was in the woods clearing brush when my dad called me over for a “science lesson”. There was a small pile of twigs and dried leaves organized the same way that logs are arranged in a fire pit. From his pocket, my dad pulled out the magnifying glass that my grandpa used to read the newspaper. He instructed me to watch as he held the lens above the pile allowing for sunlight to pass through and created a round point on the surface of the leaves. Maybe a minute or two went by, and the focus point started to smoke… before catching flame. My dad went on to explain how a convex lens can bend light into a focal point heating up the leaves until they combust. I was amazed. Of course after a few days, I was burning everything with the magnifying glass and I had it taken away. My point is, that was the day I discovered that science is magic. I wanted to know everything.

Because I was a big fan of Bunsen burners and pipettes, my high school chemistry teacher, Dr. Murphy, encouraged me to enter into the STEM field in college. I decided to follow in his footsteps and major in chemistry at Northeastern University. In my third year, I took a psychobiology class to fill a requirement, and felt that same amazement from my childhood. The complexity of the brain and its control over our emotions, motivations, and general homeostasis fascinated me. After that course, I added Behavioral Neuroscience as a second major. Through a series of internships and co-ops, I narrowed my interests into the field of learning and memory. Why does the smell of fresh cookies vividly bring me back to childhood memories of baking with my grandmother? As we learned in school, there are anatomical connections between our olfactory system and areas associated with emotion and memory. Everyday applications of my course material inspired me to continue neuroscience research.

After undergrad, I worked in industry before re-entering the academic space; this allowed me to grow and define my goals in life. In industry, I learned to appreciate basic research, which often serves as the foundation of drug discovery and biotechnological development. Both fields are needed to cure and prevent diseases in humanity’s pursuit for everlasting life. Now, at Boston University, I am studying the brain and attempting to answer mnemonic questions relating to spatial navigation, engrams, and Alzheimer’s disease. In collaboration with the Ramirez lab, my main mentor, Dr. Michael Hasselmo has given me the intellectual freedom and tools to study how memory recall affects our everyday representation of our environment.

Non-science biography:

I’m originally from Chicago, however, I have lived in Boston for ten years. I love this city for its architecture, food and my friends. While studying abroad in Paris, I took European fashion history and sustainable fashion courses, and became obsessed with high fashion and streetwear. If you find me procrastinating, I am probably browsing my favorite designers’ latest collections during fashion week (NYFW’s street fashion ~HANDS DOWN~ has the most iconic looks). Or flipping through Architectural Digest on the T. Additionally, during my free time, I love cooking, practicing yoga and playing with my cats.



The Glass Castle


The Devil Wears Prada – for the costume design


RuPaul’s Drag Race


Ramen and fruit tarts


Bubble Tea


Yoga, working out, needle art

Coffee, friend or foe:

It’s complicated

One thing I’m sorry I’m not sorry about

Chili’s is the #1 chain restaurant

What I look for in a scientist

To me, a great scientist is someone who is inquisitive, passionate, hard-working and friendly. A good student is not one who already knows everything, but one who is eager to learn more. At every stage in our career, there is always an opportunity to discover something new both from our mentors and mentees. Lastly, I value a positive and collaborative attitude because high quality science requires teamwork.