Catherine Drennan

Catherine Drennan

Professor of Biology and Chemistry

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA USA

No one is so above everyone else that they don’t need other people’s help.


By Roadtrip Nation

Catherine Drennan


My road in life has been direct.
As a child, my school struggled to place me at the correct reading level—I seemed very intelligent to my teachers but I had undiagnosed dyslexia and therefore had difficulty reading.
My mom advocated for me and did a lot of research to get the right diagnosis and support for me.
I always knew I wanted to go to college and chose Vassar College because I wanted a more liberal and contemporary atmosphere.
I originally thought I’d either study biopsychology or drama, but I took a chemistry class, fell in love with it, and ended up earning my bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
After earning my undergraduate degree, I taught high school for three years—I found that I really enjoyed teaching and working with students.
I earned my Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan.
I’m currently a professor of biology and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In addition to teaching at MIT, I’m a professor and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Keep following my journey


High School
Chemistry, General
Vassar College
Biological Chemistry
University of Michigan


Professor of Biology and Chemistry

I teach biology and chemistry to college students.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Teaching / Mentoring

Day to Day

I currently teach a large introductory biology course to 500 students. I’ll give a lecture and then have various interactions with the students. I also spend time doing research as well as writing papers and grants. Then I also devote time to my lab, where I lead undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students in research. At least once or twice a month I travel around the world to give talks.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for high school students

Follow your curiosity and you can overcome almost any hurdle. If you want to do science, put yourself out there and do it—even if your school didn't have the proper resources and you feel as if you're behind everyone else. Seek out other resources and look for opportunities. I also strongly advise students to find a mentor to support and guide them. This is such an exciting time for science! The students who are training now are going to make major change in the world.


The Noise I Shed

From Peers:

"I don't think you can do that with your dyslexia. That's too much for you."

Challenges I Overcame

Learning Issues
Imposter Syndrome