Inspired By Patients … and Fireflies

Who knew catching fireflies as a kid could be the catalyst for a lifelong passion for scientific research? For Dod Michael, Ph.D., research fellow in Lilly’s diabetes discovery group, science has always been a big part of who he was.

Growing up in northern Alabama, Michael was a member of the Sigma Firefly Scientists Club, where he would catch fireflies and ship them to scientists who would purify the enzyme that causes the firefly’s bioluminescent glow. “A canister like the one I used to collect fireflies when I was a kid sits on my desk,” he says. “It’s become a little bit rusted now, but I still keep it there as a reminder of where my science interests began.”

Michael has a close connection to diabetes. His maternal grandfather was diagnosed with the disease early on in life and passed away at age 41, years before Michael was born. “It had a major impact on my family and on my decision to focus on diabetes as a research path,” he says.

At Lilly, Michael now leads a group of scientists who are working on next-generation insulin therapeutics. Michael and his wife Laura, a researcher in the cardiovascular group, both started at Lilly on the same day 16 years ago. “Sometimes the dinner-table conversations are quite interesting,” he jokes.

Michael’s motivation to continue down the long road of drug discovery stems from genuine passion for the work he does. “My biggest piece of advice to aspiring scientists is to really look inside yourself to make sure you have the drive and commitment to continue on what is often a challenging, but extremely rewarding, path.” For Michael, being able to help people around the world continues to be well worth the journey.

Learn more about what continues to inspire Lilly scientists to discover medicines to help patients around the world at LillyForBetter and LillyPad.